Khodorkovsky 'not prisoner of conscience': Amnesty

19th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Amnesty International has refused to recognise jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky as a prisoner of conscience in a move that drew disappointment from Russian rights activists.

A group of 45 Russian actors, writers, and scientists called on the human rights group earlier this year to recognise the former Yukos chief and his business partner Platon Lebedev as prisoners of conscience.

Khodorkovsky, formerly Russia's richest man, has been in jail since 2003.

He was given a second sentence in December that is expected to keep him in prison until 2017 on money laundering charges seen by his supporters as bogus and politically motivated.

In its reply earlier this week, the international rights watchdog said there was not enough reason to consider the two men prisoners of conscience.

"The existence of political motives in the detention of this or that person does not present sufficient grounds for Amnesty International to recognise him as a prisoner of conscience," said the letter received by Alexei Simonov, president of Glasnost Defense Foundation.

"Amnesty International will recognise a person as a prisoner of conscience only if it can say confidently that not a single one of his criminal charges has foundation," says the letter, signed by secretary general Salil Shetty.

Simonov said the rights watchdog's stance was disappointing and typical of a bureaucratic organisation.

"They took a month and a half to think it over and decided nothing," Simonov told AFP on Thursday.

"AI's reply is unreliable and cunning, like everything that is being done lately in Western rights organiaationa," he said. "They told us they were at a loss as to what to do. That's what they should have written."

© 2011 AFP

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