Khodorkovsky condems prosecution case as 'empty chatter'

1st November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Jailed Russian oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky on Monday slammed the accusations against him as "empty chatter," speaking in court in the final stages of his trial on fresh charges of embezzlement.

"Khodorkovsky and Lebedev did not steal the oil, since they did not seize it either physically or legally," said the former chief of Yukos oil giant, referring to his former business partner and co-accused Platon Lebedev.

"It's empty chatter, aimed at idiots," he said in a brief speech lasting around 10 minutes. "If the prosecution stoops to deception, it means it has no more arguments to make."

Dressed smartly in a black shirt and jacket, Khodorkovsky was responding to prosecutor Valery Lakhtin, who earlier in the hearing accused the defence of telling lies.

"We do not consider it necessary to dwell in detail on all that the defence and the accused said, since everything they said is a lie," Lakhtin said.

"Khodorkovsky built his defence on forming public opinion on a political element to his trial. The accused and their defence made such conclusions in media that is under their control," Lakhtin said.

Last week, Khodorkovsky gave a three-hour speech peppered with anecdotes and jabs at the prosecution as he asked the court to acquit him on all the charges, which he has described as absurd.

Earlier this month the prosecutors called for 14-year sentences for Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, who have been behind bars since 2003 and who went on trial on the new charges in March 2009.

They are accused of stealing and illegally reselling millions of tons of oil between 1998 and 2003.

The two men were jailed for eight years in 2005 on fraud and tax evasion charges that Khodorkovsky's supporters argue were trumped up to punish the tycoon for daring to finance opposition parties.

Before being convicted, the two men spent two years behind bars in pre-trial detention.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's government insists that Khodorkovsky is guilty of massive financial crimes stemming from the controversial privatisations of the 1990s.

© 2010 AFP

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