EU's Ashton 'expects' sound Khodorkovsky sentence

27th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Chief European Union diplomat Catherine Ashton said Monday she "expects" Russia to respect international rights and rule of law commitments when sentencing jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

A Moscow court on Monday found jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky guilty in his second fraud trial, a judgement seen as a pivotal moment in Russia's post-Soviet history that upset rights campaigners.

"The European Union will continue to follow developments very closely, including the forthcoming announcement of the sentence," Ashton said in a carefully-worded statement.

"As emphasised at the recent summit that took place on 7 December in Brussels, the EU expects Russia to respect its international commitments in the field of human rights and the rule of law."

A spokesman for Ashton told AFP that the EU would not elaborate on what precisely the English baroness was asking Russia to do. Khodorkovsky, 47, is already serving an eight-year sentence for fraud.

Neither was it clear in Moscow when the final sentence would be delivered.

Once the country's richest man, and now its most prominent prisoner, Khodorkovsky's release on his first conviction was scheduled for next year, but then he was put on trial last year on charges of money laundering and embezzlement, deemed trumped-up by defenders.

The former head of the now-defunct Yukos oil giant could be stuck in jail until 2017.

Markets dipped briefly and rights campaigners shook their heads as the conviction was read out in court.

© 2010 AFP

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