Russia's Khodorkovsky appeals new jail term

17th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia's former richest man Mikhail Khodorkovsky was Tuesday to appeal his conviction in a second fraud trial that sparked global condemnation and will keep him in jail until 2017.

The appeal will by heard by the Moscow City Court Tuesday morning, its spokeswoman Anna Usacheva told Russian news agencies.

Khodorkovsky, who built up Yukos into Russia's biggest oil firm before it was broken up by the state, was in December found guilty of money laundering and embezzlement on top of his first 2005 tax evasion conviction.

His supporters have long argued both sets of charges were trumped up by the state to punish Khodorkovsky for daring to finance opposition to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and ridiculed the circumstances of the second trial.

In sometimes bizarre scenes, the judge raced through his reading of the verdict in an often inaudible mumble before announcing the conviction on December 30 as Russians were preparing for the New Year holidays.

Adding to widespread doubts, the spokeswoman for Moscow's Khamovnichesky District Court where the trial took place later said judge Viktor Danilkin was pressured from on high to deliver a guilty verdict in the case.

Danilkin has vehemently denied the allegations saying that "I will bear responsibility for this sentence until the end of my days."

Putin, who has never made a secret of his dislike of Khodorkovsky, said even before the verdict was announced that a "thief should be in prison", drawing criticism that he was interfering in the process.

The Khamovnichesky District Court handed Khodorkovsky and his co-accused Platon Lebedev a 14 year jail term but time already served means that under the terms of the ruling they should stay in jail until 2017.

Defence lawyers have said the verdict is riddled with errors but have not shown much hope of having the verdict overturned.

"We do not have any special illusions, especially as this is not the first time we have encountered this judicial instance (Moscow City Court)," Platon Lebedev's lawyer Konstantin Rivkin told Moscow Echo radio.

The defence says the Khamovnichesky District Court reviewed over 1,060 pages of its objections in just one day and then passed the trial to the Moscow City Court.

Business leaders have expressed fears that the new conviction will harm investment in Russia and the appeal hearing takes place just one day before a major news conference by President Dmitry Medvedev on modernisation.

© 2011 AFP

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