RA on Khodorkovsky in the Hamburger Abendblatt

Attached is a translation of an interview with Robert Amsterdam published in the German newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt. A scan of the clip can be downloaded here. hamburger.jpg Justice: The Lawyer for Former Yukos Head Jailed in Siberia Makes Accusations against the Moscow Leadership and Speaks of “Barbarity” “The Khodorkovsky case is an act of revenge from the Kremlin” HAMBURG, 25 May – It has been two years since Robert Amsterdam last saw his famous client. In September 2005, a Moscow criminal court upheld the verdict against Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia’s richest man and at the time still the head of the oil company Yukos, and sent him to jail for eight years for alleged tax evasion and fraud. Now the Russian Prosecutor’s Office has filed new charges against Khodorkovsky. This already incarcerated man risks another 15 years prison for alleged money laundering. “The way Khodorkovsky is being treated has reached a new level of barbarity,” Amsterdam told the Abendblatt. Therefore, Amsterdam has been meeting with politicians and human rights groups for weeks, in order to draw attention to the Khodorkovsky case again. “This no longer has anything to do with the law, but with personal enemies sitting in the Kremlin.” The first tribunal, Amsterdam said, was already a political trial. “Former Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger can confirm that; she observed the trial for the Council of Europe,” said Amsterdam. Documents were falsified and untrue assertions made up, he added. It is hard for Khodorkovsky’s lawyers to contact their client. Several defence attorneys have already been arrested. Robert Amsterdam was also expelled from the country – allegedly for not having a visa. Khodorkovsky’s penal camp is located more than 6,000 km from Moscow. “The camp is a gulag,” said Amsterdam. Access to television and newspapers is only limited. Khodorkovsky has lost weight dramatically. The now 43-year-old man’s hair has become totally white in the interval. “Prison conditions are very hard for him,” said Amsterdam. His client is de facto cut off from the outside world. Amsterdam can contact Khodorkovsky only through intermediaries. For Amsterdam, the trials against Khodorkovsky are political revenge on the part of the Kremlin. “Khodorkovsky has done nothing which was not legal at the time,” said Amsterdam. In the 1987, the then 24-year-old Mikhail Khodorkovsky took control of a Komsomol company, which he apparently privatised. Later, he succeeded in establishing important political relations to those around President Boris Yeltsin. This gave him an advantage when state companies were privatised. At an distress auction in 1995, Khodorkovsky secured a majority of shares in the state oil company Yukos for U.S.$309 million, a sum far below the then market value. He became chairman and turned the company into one of the most profitable oil companies in Russia. Later, he intervened increasingly in Russian domestic politics, financed Yeltsin’s re-election, supported the opposition parties in 1999, and called for the creation of an open civil society. When he sought to open up his company to American investors in 2003, he was arrested. There was allegedly an agreement between the Russian oligarchs and Putin by which violations of the law during the “robber baron phase” of the Yeltsin era would not be investigated, so long as industry and commerce stayed out of Russian politics. Amsterdam said, “Khodorkovsky knew that he would be arrested someday.” However, he wanted to build a civil society under rule of law. “And that didn’t sit well with some people.”