MOSCOW, November 11 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's parliament speaker said on Wednesday the Constitutional Court is likely to extend the moratorium on the death penalty that expires on January 1.
The court held a session on Monday on whether the death penalty should be restored, but turned to a closed session after several hours of hearings. A court spokesperson said on Monday the decision may come before the New Year.
Russia undertook to scrap the death penalty when it signed Protocol 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights, but it has not yet ratified the document.
"I believe we must not ratify Protocol 6 of the Council of Europe until there is consensus in society," State Duma chairman Boris Gryzlov said. "I believe extending the moratorium would be correct."
"I think a decision that will be made shortly will reflect the sentiment," Gryzlov said.
The court's 1999 ruling declared that the death penalty could not be applied until trial by jury had been introduced in all Russian regions.
The troubled North Caucasus republic of Chechnya will become Russia's last region where juries will be allowed as an alternative to panels of judges on January 1, 2010, removing the formal obstacle to reinstating the death penalty by firing squad.
The court must now decide if by reinstating the death penalty Russia would be violating its international commitments, and if that would be unconstitutional.
A former justice minister and now a senior member of the lower house of parliament said on Monday low public support for abolishing the death penalty was explained by high criminality and people's dissatisfaction with police performance.
Pavel Krasheninnikov said the death penalty must nevertheless be abolished immediately with amendments to the law. However, public support for capital punishment makes it difficult for lawmakers to abolish the practice.