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Le Monde: Russian Justice System Relentlessly Against Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Last week we published a translation of a front page article from French newspaper Le Monde regarding the recycling of charges against Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Below is an editorial note which followed the next day, which makes a flattering mention of this blog. The original article can be read here. lemonde070908.jpgRussian Justice System Relentlessly Against Mikhail Khodorkovsky Le Monde editorial, July 3, 2008 And here we go again: the new charges have been brought against Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev. Their lawyer Yuri Schmidt has just announced that the new accusations have been formulated against his clients, former owners of the Oil Company Yukos. The General Prosecutor claims that Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, embezzled nearly 350 millions tons of oil and laundered the acquired funds. The news was announced on the blog of Robert Amsterdam, one of Khodorkovsky’s international lawyers.

According to the Russian Prosecution Services, the embezzled funds, between 1998 and 2003, amount to the astronomical sum of 33 billion dollars. If he is sentenced with a guilty verdict as a result of the trial that will probably begin in August, Mikhail Khodorkovsky may spend an additional twenty years in prison. The former oligarch, eligible for an early release, is currently serving his first eight-year prison sentence in Siberia for fraud and tax evasion. In 2005 when he was widely expected to lead the political opposition against President Putin, Khodorkovsky was promptly imprisoned. His lawyers and human rights organisations interpreted this verdict as the way of silencing the political ambitions of the oligarch, enriched in the wild Russian privatisation in the 1990s.FALSE TESTIMONYAlso this time, Khodorkovsky’s lawyers reject the charges against him. They claim that the prosecutors simply rewrote the multibillion-dollar embezzlement and money-laundering charges brought against Khodorkovsky in February 2007. “These are the same, old accusations, the same nonsensical absurdity” – declared Yuri Schmidt. According to him, the accusations aim to interfere with the procedures initiated in the international courts that could contest the legality of Khodorkovsky’s imprisonment by the Russian state.The other reason, according to Schmidt, “is without any doubt to interrupt early release of Khodorkovsky.” The Prosecution is trying to buy some time while waiting for the instructions from the new master of Kremlin, Dmitry Medvedev, himself a former lawyer who once protested against the “administrative rage” that targeted Yukos.In theory, Khodorkovsky, who has already served half of his prison sentence, could appeal for conditional release. However all such previous requests were rejected by the administration.The testimony of Khodorkovsky’s former inmate proves the special treatment reserved for the oligarch, which is to ensure at all cost that he is to remain behind bars. Interviewed on Monday by the Kommersant, Igor Gnezdilov, the car thief and recidivist who shared a cell with Khodorkovsky, described how he was forced to give a false statement in order to prevent the early release of the former Yukos owner. At the end of 2007, “I was asked to write that that in the morning Khodorkovsky walked along the corridor without holding his hands behind his back and thus ignored the requests of the administration officials and violated the law” – confessed Gnezdilov. The administration used this testimony as a pretext to keep Khodorkovsky in prison.Gnezdilov admitted that he was threatened that he would not to be granted the early release if he had not testified against Khodorkovsky. “I felt I was a traitor,” says Gnezdilov, “In the evening, as I saw Mikhail Borisovich, I told him about my meeting with the administration and the reasons for signing the document. He replied that he understood everything and didn’t feel angry with me.”