Russian democracy on line with Khodorkovsky trial: Germany

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Germany said Russia's democratic development was on the line with the trial of jailed Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky after a Moscow court found him guilty Monday in his second corruption trial.

Deputy government spokesman Christoph Steegmans opened a regular briefing with a statement underlining Berlin's serious concerns about the high-profile case but declined to comment on the verdict until it is published.

"For the German government, respect for the rule of law in trials, as President (Dmitry) Medvedev has called for and as the chancellor (Angela Merkel) has frequently said, are being put to the test with this trial," he said.

"Respecting the rule of law in trials is of the greatest importance for the development of a modern state based on the rule of law in Russia. The German government has followed this trial critically from the start and will continue to watch how it develops with close attention."

Asked whether Berlin would consider "consequences" for Russia over the trial, Steegmans declined to comment until German officials had read the complete verdict against Khodorkovsky.

Khodorkovsky's supporters see him as a martyr punished for daring to challenge Prime Minister Vladimir Putin by financing opposition parties but Russian officials view him as a corrupt mogul who profited by breaking the law.

Germany's ambassador in Moscow, Ulrich Brandenburg, had told Interfax Saturday that Berlin saw the latest verdict as a test of the rule of law and said that the case had spooked German investors in Russia.

The two countries have a lucrative trade relationship. Russian exports to Germany reached 25 billion euros (33 billion dollars) in 2009 while German exported nearly 21 billion euros in goods and services to Russia.

© 2010 AFP

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