Inside the Khodorkovsky Trial

Miriam Elder has published a colorfully detailed article which shows what it is like inside the second trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky on GlobalPost:

The courtroom is wood panelled, and behind the judge’s table a large Russian flag is pinned to the wall so it looks forever fluttering, giving the scene the atmosphere of a high school play. There is no jury.

The prosecution began presenting witnesses in September, following nearly half a year of daily hearings during which the charges were read out. They have so far called several dozen witnesses in a list said to number 250. Few in Russia believe the proceedings to be meaningful, and the defense team has called the charges politically motivated. President Dmitry Medvedev has vowed to build an independent court system, but there is no evidence of that happening so far. (…)

As the line of questioning continued, the giggles from the glasscage grew more obvious. Even the judge had to jump in and intervenewhen Lakhtin asked his witness, “Could you disagree with the amount ofoil that was to be delivered?” The judge asked Lakhtin if he understoodwhat a contract was.

For most of the proceedings, Khodorkovsky, dressed in a black shirtand suit jacket and blue jeans, sat quietly, reading defense documents.Lebedev, in a gray tracksuit, was more animated, trying to catch theattention of members of the crowd and laughing or showing shock at theprosecutors’ statements.

Before the mid-day break on Monday, Lakhtin turned to the witnessand asked, “Who was the final seller of the oil?” It seemed no oneunderstood the question — not even the judge. “What are we to do withthese questions?” he asked, to no one in particular.