Former foreign ministers call for justice for Khodorkovsky

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The ex-foreign ministers of France and Britain and other politicians urged Russia Tuesday to prove it is "truly a regime of law" by giving a fair verdict in the second trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

The verdict in the trial of the former boss of oil giant Yukos is expected to be delivered on Wednesday.

In a letter to President Dmitry Medvedev published in the Financial Times, Bernard Kouchner, David Miliband joined by European and US lawmakers said: "Actions are now possible to demonstrate that Russia is truly a regime of law today.

"The proceedings against Mikhail Khodorkovsky and (his co-accused) Platon Lebedev, spun out over seven years, have been of particular concern to us.

"The consensus of respected objective observers is that their ongoing persecution is unjust and not truly motivated by law.

"This has shaken confidence in the Russian legal system and in your strong will to uphold the Russian Constitution."

The signatories added: "We therefore hope that the manner in which the Khodorkovsky-Lebedev case is decided will strictly adhere to the principles of the rule of law, as enshrined in the Russian Constitution."

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, already serving an eight-year sentence for fraud, were accused of embezzling Yukos' oil worth over 26 billion dollars (19.3 billion euros) and laundering a similar amount.

One of Khodorkovsky's lawyers has told AFP the charges against him are "absurd" but warned he is still likely to be handed another heavy jail sentence.

Lawyer Yury Shmidt said the trial was a political process ordered at the highest level.

Another former French foreign minister, Hubert Vedrine, former US national security adviser Richard V. Allen and film director Terry Gilliam were among around 40 figures to add their names to the letter.

© 2010 AFP

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