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Andreas Schockenhoff on the Khodorkovsky Trial

The following is the official press statement from the offices of the German MP Dr Andreas Schockenhoff, who attended the second trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky as an observer. His conclusions, as you can read below, are sharply critical of the legal farce currently being conducted by the Russian authorities. Perhaps with statements like this from Schockenhoff and the recent Council of Europe report, Europe can finally begin to strip away the long-standing presumption of regularity and benefit of the doubt extended forward Russia’s politically controlled legal system.

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MP Dr. Andreas Schockenhoff, Deputy Chairman of CDU/CSU Parliamentary Faction, states:

I just observed the trial against ex-Yukos boss Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his partner, Platon Lebedev. Before, I had received a briefing on the course of the trial by Mr Vadim Klyuvgant, head of the MBK attorney team.

The reason for wanting to draw my own picture of the proceedings against Mr Khodorkovsky and Mr Lebedev is the widespread concern in Germany, especially among the German Bundestag, that the current proceedings are not congruent with the constitutional and legal norms which Russia has committed itself to. Moreover, there is concern about political influence on the proceedings and that this trial will be used for political goals.

President Medvedev has declared that he wants to improve the rule of law and to fight against legal nihilism in Russia. This trial is a test case for the credibility of the Russian justice system which Medvedev has called for. It is also a test case for Russia’s compliance with standards of the Council of Europe to which it has committed itself.

With my visit I wanted to demonstrate that this trial has great political importance for us, not only because of this concrete case, but because of its principal significance for Russia’s further development.

If Russia wants to achieve its goal to become a strong world economy, which is in our interest, investors must be able to rely on a system of legal security and constitutional legality. Perhaps more important, the Russian people themselves, the people who must implement and carry forward the economic modernisation of Russia, must know that they can count on a reliable legal system in their country. Russia’s economic modernisation cannot succeed without modernisation of society itself. For this, the rule of law is an essential factor.

Therefore, the proceedings against Mr. Khodorkowsky and Mr. Lebedev are also a test case for Russia’s capability for modernisation.

From what I observed in my short visit today, from my study of trial documents, from several briefings by various attorneys of the defendants and from the reports by my Bundestag colleagues, who have observed the trial before, I feel confirmed in my worry that this trial might not be based on the principles of rule of law and that it might be used for political goals.

From this, I have drawn the following conclusions:

1. A permanent observation of this trial by representatives of the EU and Council of Europe is essential to guarantee a differentiated assessment of the trial. From Germany, Mrs Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (FDP), Mrs Marieluise Beck (Green Party) and Mr Markus Meckel (SPD) have already attended the MBK trial as observers. The chairman of the Committee for Foreign Affairs of the Bundestag, my colleague Ruprecht Polenz, also wants to visit the trial as an observer.

2. We, i.e. parliamentarians and goverrments of the Council of Europe, must continue to address legal deficits in Russia in an open, but adequate manner. The aim is not to exert political pressure on Russian. Rather, I see this openness as a signal of support for President Medvedev’s attempt to fight legal nihilism and achieve better rule of law in Russia.

3. The EU, especially Germany, should continue to offer expanded cooperation for the development of the legal system in Russia to support President Medvedev’s efforts to create a genuinely independent judiciary as a concrete measure to back Russia’s modernization efforts.