Court aide reveals 'proof of Khodorkovsky trial pressure'

14th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

An ex-aide to a Moscow judge Tuesday released documents allegedly showing a court intended to give a lighter sentence to oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky before changing its mind under pressure from above.

The AGORA rights organisation published three pages of what it said was the original sentence of the Kremlin critic and Russia's former richest man.

The papers were handed to Russian investigators last week by Natalya Vasilyeva, an aide to a Moscow court that convicted Khodorkovsky for a second time last year.

Russia's most famous prisoner and his business partner Platon Lebedev have been in prison since 2003 and were in December convicted of a second set of fraud charges.

The documents published by AGORA ordered Khodorkovsky and Lebedev be handed 10 year sentences -- terms that would seen them both released in 2013 due to time already served.

Judge Viktor Danilkin initially ruled that the two should stay in prison until 2017 by giving a 14 year jail sentence before that sentence was reduced by one year last month.

"This is the sentence Danilkin initially wanted to release," Vasilyeva's personal representative Irina Khrukova told Moscow Echo radio.

The documents -- which were unsigned -- included several cross marks and exclamation points over part of the sentence that Khrunova said the judge entered after receiving instructions from higher judicial authorities.

"In the end, what was read out was a completely different sentence -- the (legal) articles are all the, but the terms are different."

The she said the secretary accidentally found the documents in a folder she kept for documents handed to her by the presiding judge.

Vasilyeva previously claimed the verdict was written for Danilkin by his Moscow City Court superiors in comments that caused a firestorm of controversy. She later resigned her post.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in a national television address on the eve of sentencing that a "thief must sit in prison", in what the defence saw as direct interference in the Khodorkovsky case.

© 2011 AFP

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