Khodorkovsky judge pressured over verdict: aide

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The judge in the second trial of Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky was pressured from on high into delivering a guilty verdict and jail sentence, an aide to the judge claimed on Monday.

Natalya Vasilyeva, a spokeswoman for the Moscow's Khamovnichesky district court and an aide to judge Viktor Danilkin, made the explosive allegations in interviews with liberal website and television channel Dozhd (Rain).

Danilkin immediately denounced the allegations as "slander" while the Moscow city court said her comments "were nothing other than a provocation," Russian news agencies reported.

"Danilkin started to write the verdict. I suspect that what was in that verdict did not please the higher instance. And so he received a different verdict which he had to read out," Vasilyeva said.

She said that "when something was happening not the way it was supposed to" Danilkin "had to give information to the Moscow City court and received certain instructions from there about how to behave."

Vasilyeva said she believed she will most likely be fired after the whistle-blowing interview.

Danilkin on December 30 handed a new 14-year sentence to Khodorkovsky and his co-accused Platon Lebedev after finding them guilty of money laundering and embezzlement in a trial that started in March 2009.

The sentence was angrily condemned in the West and Khodorkovsky's supporters maintained he had been punished for daring to continue to oppose Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

© 2011 AFP

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