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Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Prisoner of Conscience

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It was a long time coming.  Today, following the Moscow City Court’s pre-ordained decision to reject the appeal of Mikhail Khodorkovsky & Platon Lebedev, Amnesty International has come forward to declare the two men as Prisoners of Conscience.  Text of the press release is below.

Russian businessmen declared prisoners of conscience after convictions are upheld

24 May 2011

Amnesty International has declared Russian businessmen MikhailKhodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev prisoners of conscience after the twomen’s convictions on money laundering were today upheld by a Moscowcourt.

The Moscow City Court reduced the sentences of the two menfrom 13 ½ years’ imprisonment to 12 but failed to address any of theserious procedural violations that have marred the criminal proceedingsfrom the outset of the investigation.

“Whatever the rights andwrongs of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev’s first convictionsthere can no longer be any doubt that their second trial was deeplyflawed and politically motivated,” said Nicola Duckworth, AmnestyInternational’s Director for Europe and Central Asia. 

“Forseveral years now these two men have been trapped in a judicial vortexthat answers to political not legal considerations.  Today’s verdictmakes it clear that Russia’s lower courts are unable, or unwilling, todeliver justice in their cases.”

“The Supreme Court offers thelast possible hope for justice.  Their convictions must be overturnedand the two men released on the expiry of their current sentences”.

Followingthe conviction of the two men on 27 December 2010, AmnestyInternational expressed grave concerns over the timing of charges, theharassment of lawyers and witnesses and procedural violations includingthe exclusion of evidence that might have exonerated the defendants, andthe denial of the right to examine and cross examine witnesses. 

The organization concluded that their convictions were unsafe and called for them to be overturned on appeal.

“Thefailure of the appeal court to address the fundamental flaws in thesecond trial and the fact that Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedevhave already spent eight years in jail on barely distinguishablecharges, points to the conclusion that their second convictions havebeen sought for political reasons relating purely to who they are,” saidNicola Duckworth.

“These two men must be released after their current sentences expire on 25 October and 2 July respectively.”