Hundreds rally in Russia in support of Khodorkovsky
About 300 people rallied in central Saint Petersburg Sunday in support of jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky ahead of a new court verdict to be announced next week.
Khodorkovsky and his partner Platon Lebedev, who are already serving an eight-year sentence for fraud, currently await their verdict in Moscow in the second trial on new charges. The court is to start reading it Wednesday.
"We believe that the sentence on Khodorkovsky will be the sentence on the future. Whatever it is, it will shape our tomorrow," said Olga Kurnosova of the oppositional movement United Civic Front.
People chanted "Freedom for Khodorkovsky and Lebedev!" and "The people united will never be defeated!" while some held up large portraits of the former head of Yukos oil company and signs "Justice is me," signed "Putin".
"It's a pity that people who can bring benefit to the country are sitting behind bars," said 75-year old rally participant Viktor Alexandrov. "Clearly they are there because our prime minister is afraid of competition."
Khodorkovsky's prosecution is seen by his supporters as politically motivated and masterminded by Vladimir Putin, who was president when Khodorkovsky was first jailed in 2003.
Khodorkovsky and Lebedev would finish their initial prison terms next year, but could be facing many more years behind bars after next week's verdict.
The sanctioned rally, held in Russia's second largest city in the northwest, was organised by Russian opposition and rights groups, and coincided with Russia's Constitution day.
© 2010 AFP