New Charges Filed against Khodorkovsky

mbkrally063008.jpgMore information and commentary forthcoming. From Reuters:

New charges against Russia’s Khodorkovsky Russian prosecutors have brought new charges against jailed former oil businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, his legal team said on Monday. The lawyers said they had yet to establish what the new charges were but believed they were a version of money laundering charges prosecutors have been preparing for over a year.

Khodorkovsky, who controlled the now-dismantled Russian oil company Yukos, has served just over half of an eight-year prison term on fraud and tax evasion charges.”The new charges were presented on 30th of June,” his defence team said in a statement posted on its website said they could not immediately comment.Khodorkovsky has maintained his innocence and said the charges against him were fabricated as punishment for challenging the Kremlin. Russian officials say he is a criminal who received a fair trial.Prosecutors have for over a year been preparing to try him on a new set of charges for money laundering.Khodorkovsky’s legal team said they believed the new charges presented on Monday were a recycled version of those existing money laundering charges. They said they believed announcing new charges was a ruse by prosecutors to play for time.”The defence can find no explanation other than the lack of certainty among the prosecutors and — taking into account changes that have happened at the top of the government — its desire to play for time, in the hope of receiving new instructions and confirmation of support from the top,” the lawyers’ statement said.Russian President Dmitry Medvedev took office in early May and has promised to improve legal standards. Medvedev has yet to give any indication of his views on the Khodorkovsky case.Yukos was presented with huge back-tax bills and split up in state-ordered auctions. Most of the firm’s assets have been absorbed into Russian state-controlled oil firm Rosneft.Khodorkovsky’s international lawyer Robert Amsterdam said the new charges were without foundation.”The Russians have a problem, as the charges, as in earlier proceedings, are on the face of it absurd,” he told Reuters.”This buys time them time and while we have not completed a review of the charges, they seem similar, if not identical. This is an entirely political case and it can only be resolved at a political level,” he said.When asked if they had any indication of Medvedev’s views towards the jailed businessman, Amsterdam replied: “None”.But the lawyer said he anticipated that Khodorkovsky would seek to be freed from jail soon.”I believe the recommendation has been made for him to seek some form of release and I believe that will be pursed by him, but we have no idea what the reaction would be.”

Photo: Opposition supporters hold their parties’ flags and a portrait of jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky at a rally in support of political prisoners and against political repression in downtown Moscow, Tuesday, June 10, 2008. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)