Russian court extends arrest of Khodorkovsky

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A Russian court extended by three months the arrest of the fallen oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in a move his lawyer said was an "open flouting of the law."

The Khamovnichesky district court granted a request by prosecutors to extend the detention of Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev, who are on trial on fresh charges of embezzling millions of tons of oil and money laundering.

"The arrest has been extended until November 17, 2010," said a statement posted on Khodorkovsky's website.

"According to the medical documents submitted to the court, the defendants' state of health allows them to be (held) in the conditions of pre-trial detention centre," the site quoted judge Viktor Danilkin as saying at the hearing.

Khodorkovsky's lawyer Vadim Klyuvgant said the defence would appeal, calling the ruling "an egregious violation of law."

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, a lawyer by training, last year banned the jailing of suspects while under investigation for certain types of economic crime as he said the Russian penitentiary legislation was unnecessarily brutal.

"This is an open flouting of the law which will be replicated in courts and cases in the future," Klyuvgant told AFP

In May, the same judge ruled to extend the arrest of Khodorkovsky and Platonov until August 17.

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev would not have been released even if the court had made the decision to extend their arrest but the conditions of their confinement would be less strict, said Klyuvgant.

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were jailed for eight years in 2005 on charges of fraud and tax evasion that their supporters argue were trumped up to punish the tycoon for daring to finance opposition parties.

The two men are now on trial again on charges of embezzling millions of tons of oil and money laundering that could see them jailed for another two decades.

© 2010 AFP

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