The Impossible Case against Mikhail Khodorkovsky

From the Associated Press:

But his lawyers say the allegations of a $25 billion theft border on impossible. Many believe Khodorkovsky’s real sin was to have violated an understanding with the Kremlin that powerful business leaders keep out of politics. His defenders insist he was singled out for funding opposition groups and because he was believed to have political ambitions.

Others point to his oil ambitions, to build a pipeline outside of Kremlin control and independently pump Russian hydrocarbons abroad.

They say the new prosecution is designed to keep himbehind bars beyond the 2012 presidential election — the year after hiscurrent sentence ends. A court last August rejected his application forparole.

Khodorkovsky and his supporters have persisted in keepingthe case in the public eye, publicizing what his lawyers say arearbitrary rulings by Siberian courts, for example, sending him intosolitary confinement for giving an interview to a magazine or forpossessing documents on inmates’ rights.

A more recent twist camelast week, when a man who claimed to be a cellmate of Khodorkovskyaccused him of making sexual advances. A Moscow court rejected theclaim. His supporters say the accusation is designed to smearKhodorkovsky.

“Those people who put him in prison don’t ever wanthim to get out. They’re afraid that time is slipping away… that thesituation in the country is changing,” said Yuri Korgunyuk, an analystwith the Indem think tank in Moscow.

The “changing situation”refers to Medvedev, the former law professor elected president a yearago, and his repeated talk of reforming the justice system.

Medvedevhas cheered human rights activists by reportedly ordering thewithdrawal of legislation that would have greatly broadened thedefinition of treason. And after a Moscow jury acquitted three men inthe killing of celebrated journalist Anna Politkovskaya, Medvedevappeared to chide prosecutors for not knowing how to argue their casebefore a jury.

But he has also signed a law that prohibits jurytrials in cases involving terrorism and treason — a measure that legalexperts say could make it easier to jail opposition politicians.

“He hasn’t made good on his promises,” said Allison Gill, director of Human Rights Watch’s Moscow office.