Amnesty says Khodorkovsky is 'prisoner of conscience'

24th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Amnesty International on Tuesday blasted a Russian court's decision to uphold Mikhail Khodorkovsky's conviction, saying he was now a "prisoner of conscience," days after refusing to use the term.

The Moscow court cut the Kremlin critic's jail term by one year until 2016 but upheld his conviction, drawing anger from supporters who view him as a political victim of former president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

An appeals judge ruled that the ex-tycoon and his fellow prisoner and former business associate Platon Lebedev will have to serve "13 years each in a general security prison," an AFP correspondent reported from court.

"Amnesty International has declared Russian businessmen Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev prisoners of conscience after the two men's convictions on money laundering were today upheld by a Moscow court," said the London-based rights group in a statement.

Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty's Europe and Central Asia director, added: "Whatever the rights and wrongs of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev's first convictions there can no longer be any doubt that their second trial was deeply flawed and politically motivated.

"For several years now these two men have been trapped in a judicial vortex that answers to political not legal considerations.

"Today's verdict makes it clear that Russia's lower courts are unable, or unwilling, to deliver justice in their cases."

Amnesty's statement came five days after they stated in a letter that his incarceration "did not present sufficient grounds for (us) to recognise him as a prisoner of conscience".

Such a prisoner is defined as one who is "physically restrained (by imprisonment or otherwise) from expressing (in any form of words or symbols) any opinion which he honestly holds and which does not advocate or condone personal violence."

Khodorkovsky's detention began when he was snatched off his private jet in 2003 in the heat of a power struggle with the Kremlin, during which he tried to influence Russia's energy policies and financed various opposition parties.

The country's richest man at the time and often mentioned as a potential Kremlin contender, the former Yukos oil company boss had been scheduled for release this year before a Moscow court found him guilty on a second set of fraud charges in December.

© 2011 AFP

0 Comments To This Article