Friday, February 04, 2011

Russia: Civil Rights Council to Examine Khodorkovsky’s Case

Published with the permission of Voice of America

Russian news reports say that the presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights will examine the verdict in the case of former Yukos Oil Chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was first convicted of corruption in 2005.

The official Itar-Tass news agency quotes council member Tamara Morshchakova Thursday as saying a group of legal experts has been set up to review the second criminal case brought against Khodorkovsky and his business partner, Platon Lebedev, in February, 2007. The new sentence extended the jail term for Khodorkovsky and Lebedev until 2017. Morshchakova said the Council considers it necessary to monitor judicial practice in high-profile criminal cases.

The two men are serving lengthy sentences for fraud and embezzlement during their management of the now-defunct oil company. They claim they are innocent and that the charges against them are politically motivated.

News reports say that President Dmitry Medvedev asked the Council during a session Tuesday in Yekaterinburg to get expert legal opinion on several high-profile cases, including Khodorkovsky's case. No time frame was given for when the council will issue its report to the president.

Allegations of fraud against the former Russian oil tycoon surfaced in 2003 after he challenged then-President Vladimir Putin and supported his opponents. His case attracted worldwide attention and Russia's judicial system came under sharp criticism, especially in the West.

Khodorkovsky addressed President Medvedev Wednesday in an open letter published by his defense team, in which he warned him of a public backlash if he doesn't deliver on his promise to create an independent judiciary and uproot corruption in the government.