Stern Interview with RA: “Demand Rule of Law from Russia”

Attached is a translation of a recent interview with Robert Amsterdam in the German magazine Stern: “The Kremlin is pulling the strings” By Katja Gloger, Washington amsterdam2.jpg Former Yukos President Mikhail Khodorkovsky, currently serving a prison sentence of 8 years, may face a new trial. Russian authorities want to lay further charges. A sentence of 15 additional years is possible. “The charges are invented,” his lawyer Robert Amsterdam tells Oil billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was former President of Yukos, and one of the richest of the rich in Russia. Then the oligarch got too powerful and critical for the Kremlin’s liking. In 2003, he was arrested and sentenced to eight years imprisonment in what can only be described as a show trial. Now new charges are being laid, and an additional jail sentence of up to 15 years is possible. His lawyer Robert Amsterdam spoke to about the background to the case. Mr. Amsterdam, how is your client doing? Robert Amsterdam: He’s extremely disappointed, sad. The new charges against him are so absurd, it’s hard to imagine how anyone came up with them. It’s a disgraceful farce, as he himself says. The former president of the oil enterprise Yukos had already been sentenced to eight years in a labour camp. Now he’s being charged with money laundering and embezzlement of up to 25 billion dollars, the prison sentence could be up to 15 additional years. Yes. All that is further evidence of the absolute arbitrariness of the Russian procuracy. It’s not trying to give the charges even the slightest appearance of justice. What do you know of Khodorkovsky’s everyday life? He was sent for 18 months to the labour camp Krasnokamensk. There, in the Gulag… …Gulag, the system of camps under Stalin in which millions died… …it’s still a Gulag. It is dangerous. People die of diseases like tuburculoses, are victims of random violence. Khodorkovsky has repeatedly been put into solitary confinement for spurious claims – for instance, for leaving his work station without permission in order to report a broken machine. Or for supposed illegal possession of printed material, in this case a copy of the prison rules. He was victim of a knife attack by someone who wanted to stab out an eye, to deface him. Where is he now? Two months ago, he was sent to Chita in eastern Siberia. He’s in a remand prison there. The trial is to take place in Chita. Why there? Chita is thousands of kilometers away from Moscow. It’s hard to get there, for foreigners virtually impossible. It’s much easier to control things that way. Khodorkovsky’s Russian lawyers were arrested at the Moscow airport last week. They were on their way to Chita for the reading of the charges. They were only let go after a radio station and news agencies reported the arrest. There’s more. 150 heavily armed special units of the militia were sent to Chita, supposedly for security reasons. They are not accountable to local authorities. And the trial is not to take place in a courtroom but rather in jail. That way, they can bar anyone entry. That means that there will be no independent reporting. The accused is definitely not to have a fair hearing. Why is the new trial happening now? For one thing, under Russian law, Khodorkovsky would be eligible to apply for premature release this year. That would make a new ruling impossible. In addition, many in the Kremlin would profit personally from a new conviction because the last auction in the Yukos case is soon to take place, the selling off of the supposedly bankrupt parts of the business. We’re talking about theft here. Incidentally, Khodorkovsky is sure that he’s going to be found guilty. Yukos used to be the most powerful oil company in Russia, it was then bought up by Khodorkovsky in a questionable way. After Khodorkovsky’s arrest in 2003, Yukos was dismantled, large parts of it ended up under state ownership, for example as part of Gazprom. The powers that be in the Kremlin are pulling the strings in the Khodorkovsky case. And now they want to legitimise the final auction, the last sale, using new charges. “Money laundering” sounds good – they think something criminal is bound to stick. It’s fraud of the highest order. The whole world knows that. And does nothing. It’s easier to keep quiet. The West has become prisoner of Russian energy politics. Gazprom, this unbelievably corrupt oil company, was even able to obtain the former Chancellor Schröder for its own PR purposes and he’s doing very well by it. This weekend, President Putin is opening the security conference in Munich. What should the West be doing? A man like Putin has a deadly fear of opposition. He speaks often of the “dictatorship of the law.” In reality, there’s a lot of dictatorship and no law. At the moment, judicial processes are covering up the corruption in Russia. This kind of arbitrariness, these lies, shouldn’t be possible in the 21st century. Western companies such as the Italian ENI should not participate in the auction, which is rigged from the outset. We must demand rule of law from Russia. And the release of Mikhail Khodorkovsky.