Khodorkovsky defence do not rule out third trial

13th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

The defence of Mikhail Khodorkovsky on Thursday said they would not be surprised if the authorities conjured up new charges against the fallen businessman to keep him behind bars for many more years.

In an end-of-the-year culmination of Khodorkovsky's second fraud trial, a court late last month sentenced him and his co-accused Platon Lebedev to 14 years in jail meaning the two would remain in jail until 2017.

Yury Shmidt, lead lawyer for Khodorkovsky told reporters that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's statements concerning the trial and Khodorkovsky's fate were becoming so "hysterical" that he would not be surprised if he was tried again on new charges.

"I somehow began to concede that this can happen," Shmidt said.

Khodorkovsky's supporters see him as a martyr punished for daring to challenge Putin, who compared him to gangster Al Capone and repeatedly accused him of being behind contract killings -- accusations that have never been brought to court.

Referring to Khodorkovsky in a live television call-in show before the delivery of the verdict last month, Putin said that "a thief must be in prison" and that the tycoon's guilt had been proved in court.

"This is evidence that Putin is becoming hysterical and that he is not quite okay psychologically," said Shmidt, adding that Putin's inner circle was deliberately feeding him misleading information.

In his second trial, Khodorkovsky was accused of stealing oil worth more than 26 billion dollars from his Yukos company -- a charge the defence team says is absurd.

The new charges against Khodorkovsky provoked an angry reaction in the West but Russia's foreign ministry said that it expected "everyone to mind his own business" and that the trial was Russia's internal affair.

Shmidt and Klyuvgant said the defence team had still not received a copy of the verdict without which they cannot formally appeal the court decision.

"This is very strange. If everything is done according to law, what's there to hide?" said Klyuvgant.

© 2011 AFP

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