Medvedev advisor urges Khodorkovsky acquittal

27th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

An advisor to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev Monday called for jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky to be acquitted in his second trial on charges of money laundering and embezzlement.

A judge was later Monday to start reading out the verdict in the second trial of Khodorkovsky, already serving an eight-year sentence for tax evasion in a case his supporters say is politically motivated.

Igor Yurgens, head of The Institute of Contemporary Development think tank set up by Medvedev when he came to power in 2008, told the Kommersant daily that an acquittal would be fair and help the investment climate in Russia.

"Such a verdict would satisfy business, the West in the widest sense of the word and potential investors in Russia," said Yurgens.

"An acquittal, it seems to me, is the only thing that can be considered not only fair but pragmatic and rational in every sense," he added.

Yurgens is seen as a key backer of Medvedev's goal of modernising Russia to wean the country off its dependence on oil and gas exports and has repeatedly expressed reservations about the power of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Medvedev said Friday no Russian official should comment on a court case before the verdict, a possible rebuke to Putin's recent outspoken remarks on the issue.

Putin earlier this month compared Khodorkovsky to US fraudster Bernard Madoff, jailed for 150 years, and observed that a "thief must be in prison".

Putin has also in the past accused the fallen magnate of contract killings, accusations that have never been raised in court.

Yurgens hit out at Putin's comments on the case, saying that "all these scary numbers he has referred to like 150 years are neither here nor there."

He said an acquittal was needed to reverse the mounting impression that real change was impossible in Russia.

"Pessimism, a lack of faith in the possibility of changes and hypochondria have already become a national obsession.

"This hypochondria needs to be stopped and not added to with conflictual or bad news. An acquittal could be one such piece of good news."

© 2010 AFP

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