Russia rejects Western criticism of Khodorkovsky verdict

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday rejected the West's criticism of the Mikhail Khodorkovsky verdict, saying Russia's courts were independent of influence from the state.

"The opinions expressed there (in the West) should not and absolutely do not affect the decisions taken by the judicial authorities of the Russian Federation," news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying.

"They are independent of both the Russian and the foreign authorities," ITAR-TASS quoted Lavrov as saying.

The US State Department and the European Union led a chorus of international condemnation of the sentence delivered Thursday in the second trial of the Yukos oil company founder and his co-defendant Platon Lebedev.

A Moscow judge found the pair -- already in prison since 2003 on tax evasion charges -- guilty of money laundering and embezzlement and extended their jail stay for the additional six years the prosecution sought.

The defence has called the decision "lawlessness" and on Friday filed an initial appeal.

© 2010 AFP

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