Italian Parliament in Support of Mikhail Khodorkovsky

The following is a press release being distributed today on behalf of the Mikhail Khodorkovsky defense team:


Rome, September 23, 2009 – The Italian parliament today voted in favour of a motion urging the Italian Government “to activate all diplomatic channels, together with other European partners, to guarantee the respect for human rights and the right of defence for Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev and for all Russian citizens”. The motion, presented at the Lower Chamber by Pier Ferdinando Casini, leader of the Christian Democrat Party (UDC), received overwhelming support: out of 478 MPs attending the plenary session, 430 voted in favour. During the debate, Alfredo Mantica, Undersecretary of State for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, expressed support for the motion on behalf of the Government and called for unanimous adoption by all political groups. This builds on the statement of support made in May this year by Minister for Foreign Affairs and former EU Commissioner, Franco Frattini.

Italy has important ties with Russia: it is Russia’s third largesttrading partner and Prime Ministers Berlusconi and Putin have a closefriendship. Commenting on the vote, Robert Amsterdam, Mr.Khodorkovsky’s international legal counsel, said “This endorsement bythe Italian parliament is a further sign of how Western governments arereacting to the second show trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The West issaying enough is enough.”

At the beginning of July the German Bundestag already adopted amotion on rule of law in Russia. The bi-partisan motion, which wasbacked by Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, the Liberal Party aswell as the Greens, named the trial against Mikhail Khodorkovsky a”test case of the Russian justice system’s credibility, as demanded byPresident Medvedev, and the respect of Council of Europe standards” andcalled for EU supervision of the trial.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, arrested onpolitically-motivated charges in 2003 for which they have passed thelast six years in prison, are now facing a second trial and theprospect of a twenty-two year sentence if convicted. According to thedefence and many international observers, the new charges are even moreabsurd and ridiculous than the first set of charges.

The trial of both men is now widely seen as the crucial test of President Medvedev’s pledge to end “legal nihilism” in Russia.