Khodorkovsky May Appeal for Parole

This one comes from the Associated Press – more info available at the website.

Lawyer says Khodorkovsky may appeal for early release after presidential change in Russia The Associated Press MOSCOW: A lawyer for the jailed founder of the Yukos oil company said Thursday he he has advised his client to appeal for early release from his Siberian prison now that Vladimir Putin is no longer Russia’s president. Yuri Schmidt said on Ekho Moskvy radio Thursday that tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who turned 45 Thursday, hasn’t made up his mind on the issue yet.

Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, was convicted in 2005 of fraud and tax evasion and sentenced to eight years in prison in a case that many critics called Kremlin revenge for his criticism and apparent political ambitions.Schmidt said Khodorkovsky felt it was useless to lodge such an appeal while Putin was in charge. He voiced hope that Russia’s courts could be more objective after President Dmitry Medvedev was inaugurated last month.”We would like to believe that times have changed,” Schmidt said.Medvedev has pledged to hold human rights sacred and to protect people — from ordinary Russians to foreign investors — by fighting corruption and abuse of the justice system.His words have prompted hopes in Russia and abroad for change from Putin, who was widely accused of rolling back Russian democracy and using the justice system as a tool to strengthen the Kremlin’s power.”Medvedev’s words about the necessity of judicial reform and the independence of courts gave us hope,” Schmidt said. “The current condition of the justice system is such that people have fully lost their trust in courts, lost any hope they can get legal protection.”Despite his liberal rhetoric, Medvedev has also pledged continuity in the policies set by his mentor, Putin, who has retained clout as Russia’s prime minister. Kremlin critics see Khodorkovsky’s case as a litmus test for Medvedev’s intentions.Asked on a trip to Germany earlier this month whether Khodorkovsky could be pardoned, Medvedev said only that any convict, including the oil tycoon, could appeal for pardon. He added that such decisions are Russia’s internal business which shouldn’t be the subject of discussion with foreign leaders.Khodorkovsky was arrested in October 2003 when his plane was stormed by special forces while on a refueling stop in Novosibirsk. He became eligible for early release last fall after serving half of his prison sentence.Yukos, once Russia’s largest oil producer, was broken up and sold off in auctions ordered by the state to pay off billions of dollars in alleged back taxes. Much of the company’s assets were purchased by the state-controlled oil company OAO Rosneft, making that company Russia’s largest oil producer.Khodorkovsky and his supporters have blamed senior Putin aide and Rosneft Chairman Igor Sechin of being a driving force behind the crackdown on Yukos.