EU's Buzek blames 'systemic' problems in Khodorkovsky verdict

30th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

The Polish head of the European Parliament highlighted "systemic problems" Thursday in a Russian court's decision to hand jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky a 14-year fraud sentence.

Parliament president Jerzy Buzek, a former Solidarity activist in Soviet-era Poland, said the judges' decision to order Khodorkovsky and co-accused Platon Lebedev to be kept in jail until 2017 had become an "emblematic symbol" of Russia's failure to adopt 21st-century values.

"I am very disappointed," former Polish premier Buzek said in a statement. "The trials of Mikhail Khodorkovsky were the litmus test of how the rule of law and human rights are treated in today's Russia.

"In effect it has become the emblematic symbol of all the systemic problems within the judiciary."

Buzek did not mention Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has been criticised by rights defenders for telling national television that a "thief must be in jail" before the sentence was even handed down.

But he added: "I believe that President Medvedvev is genuine about the modernisation agenda of his country. (However) in order for it to become reality opportunities like today's can not be missed.

"There is still a very long path for Russia to take."

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, already serving an eight year sentence from a first fraud trial, do not qualify for a suspended term, judge Viktor Danilkin also told the Moscow court.

© 2010 AFP

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