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"Khodorkovsky verdict a farce"

says a court clerk

Update 15 February

Mikhail Khodorkovsky 's second conviction, which will cause him to be detained until 2012, would be a farce. So reported Natalya Vasilyeva, court spokeswoman and assistant of the judge working on the case, Viktor Danilkin.

Vasilyeva explained in a tv interview that he magistrate never wrote the verdict and read it against his will. The condemnation would have been forced by Russian authorities fearing the penalty decided by the judge would be too lenient. According to Russian press sources, Danilkin said the assistant's comments were mere slanders.

27 December
Khodorkovsky found guilty again
protests outside the Court

Former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky was found guilty in his second fraud trial. He was accused of embezzlement and money laundry relating to the alleged theft of 350 millions tons oil from the company the two defendants ran - their partner Platon Lebedev was on the dock, too. The amount was the equivalent of the firm's production of six years, and it was reduced by nearly one third at the end of the trial.

The judges have not, yet announced the duration of the term handed down to the 47 years old. Prosecutors had asked for six more years in jail. While the judges read the verdict hundreds people demonstrated for his acquittal and denounced all charges against him were politically motivated. "Everyone of us can become a Khodorkovsky" read out one of their signs.

8 November
"I am ready to die for my ideas"
Khodorkovsky's last audition in court

The former oligarch was questioned at the closing session of his second trial. He declared: "Let us ask ourselves: what must be going through the head of [...] simply any ordinary [...* person, looking today at our trial and knowing that its result is absolutely predictable?

The obvious conclusion a thinking person can make is chilling in its stark simplicity: the siloviki bureaucracy can do anything. There is no right of private property ownership. A person who collides with "the system" has no rights whatsoever.

I am not at all an ideal person, but I am - a person with an idea. For me, as for anybody, it is hard to live in jail, and I do not want to die there. But if I have to - I will not hesitate. The things I believe in are worth dying for".

Russia on trial, by Jackson Diehl, in the Washington Post, 8 November 2010

Update 19 May
Russia Gulags are eternal
Khodorkovsky on hunger strike

Former tycoon of Russian oil Mikhail Khodorkovsky is on hunger strike to protest against the new charges which could relegate him to jail for 22 more years.

The man, who used to be the richest one in Russia, was arrested in 2003 with his vice, Mr. Platon Lebedev for funding the opposition political parties, upon charges of tax evasion, fraud and graft. In 2005 he was sentenced to eight years of forced labour in Siberia. According to his supporters the trial was held in an unjust way.

Last week Khodorkovsky's term, which is supposed to end in 2011, was extended by the judge of his second trial, who could jail him for 22 more years upon charges of embezzlement and money laundering. Khodorkovskij defines these new charges as ridiculous, a ruse to prevent him from regaining freedom. Since March 2009, to ensure his presence at the trial he has been moved from Siberia to Moscow prisons.
In a letter to the Supreme Court, Khodorkovsky declared that this decision violated a decree by President Medvedev under which the convicted of economic crimes should not be detained before the trial. "I will continue the hunger strike – he wrote – until I am confirmed that Dmitrij Medvedev was adequately informed about the way in which law is observed – or rather ignored – by State officials".

Until March 2009 the man was held in the prison of Krasnokamensk, at the border with China: compelled to saw gloves eight hours a day, punished by punishment cell for any violation of the ruling, no contacts with the outside world. The dissident managed to deliver messages only through his lawyers. In one of these he declared: "Jail is not the best experience: it is the place of anticulture, anticivilization. Here Good is Evil, lie is the truth. It is horrible to see as every day only a few save themselves, whereas dozens human fates are drowned. Here a very important condition is self-discipline. Either you work on yourself or you degrade yourself”.

In the past days the dissident managed to smuggle a short interview to CNN journalists.

Why have these new charges been brought against you? Do you suspect political motives?
The new charges have been brought to prevent my release from prison. They are undoubtedly politically-motivated since they have no merit whatsoever. To date, the prosecutors have failed to explain where they got the idea that all the oil produced by Yukos had been stolen. And that is exactly what I have been accused of.

Are you simply defending yourself and your former business, or is there a bigger principle at stake?
It was a painful experience for me to see my perfectly functional company laid to waste. However it is all history now. It is common knowledge today that things like a ban on businesses to finance independent opposition [parties], widespread illegal takeovers of property in Russia, and a manifold increase in corruption-motivated arrests of businessmen (their businesses are then seized), all began with the Yukos case.

Has your time in prison served any positive purpose?
At a certain point in my life I realized that I personally needed to do something to help build civil society in this country. However it was difficult for me to break free from what was a comfortable business routine, both psychologically and in terms of the public's perception of me. In that particular sense, prison has given me a chance to stop and rethink my values.

To what extent has this become a personal battle between you and Vladimir Putin?
Clearly, Putin finds me more than disagreeable. It's difficult for me to say to what extent my persecution and prosecution are based on political calculations, self-interest, or emotion. As for me, my career in business has taught me to keep my emotions under control.

What does your legal situation say about the rule of law in Russia?
There is not one serious-minded individual in Russia right now who would tell you that this trial is lawful. There is talk of whether such methods of achieving political goals are acceptable, and whether the goals are appropriate in the first place.
That the motives are political is no longer and hasn't been for a long time a subject for discussion. The legally sophisticated part of [Russian] society has also reached a consensus that charges against me are knowingly absurd. Therefore even answering a question about rule of law would be redundant.

CNN article

According to Amnesty International Khodorkovsky’s and Lebdev’s rights have been violated in an unfair and politically biased trial.

15 February 2011

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the Soviet labour camps

GULag is the acronym, introduced in 1930, of Gosudarstvennyj Upravlenje Lagerej (General Direction of the lagers).
In 1918, with the beginning of civil war, the Soviet system created a broad network of concentration camps for the political opponents of the newly created Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (the USSR). In 1919 the Soviets created the forced labour division. Forced labour was designed to socially redeem the detainees according to the very Soviet constitution. Besides the economic and punishment function, some lagers also worked in order to murder the deportees.

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