Russia's Supreme Court has said that the murder of a sleeping person should not be interpreted by courts as the murder of a helpless person.
The Supreme Court made the statement on Thursday on its website in a review of its supervisory practices for the first six months of 2009. Russian lawyers and human rights advocates immediately criticized the court's reasoning.
According to the Russian Criminal Code, a person who murders a helpless person (part II of the Code's Article 105) can face life imprisonment, whereas a person who commits premeditated murder (part I of Article 105) faces no more than 15 years in prison.
The Supreme Court said "helpless" people could be those seriously ill, the elderly, small children or those suffering from mental disorders.
"Sleep is a vital and physiologically conditioned state...and cannot be regarded as a helpless state," the court said.
The interpretation followed a ruling by the Supreme Court of the Russian republic of Bashkortostan that found a defendant guilty in line with Article 105, part II because his victim had been sleeping. But the Russian Supreme Court changed the ruling and provided the explanation.
"It's perfectly clear to everyone that sleep is a helpless state...the most favorable for inflicting physical injuries and murder," rights advocate Igor Trunov told RIA Novosti.
"If a person is sleeping, he cannot protect himself, so he is in a helpless state," lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said.
Moscow Helsinki Group head Lyudmila Alexeyeva called the explanation "absolute nonsense."
MOSCOW, November 26 (RIA Novosti)