Russia rejects criticism of Khodorkovsky verdict

December 28th, 2010 - 11:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Moscow, Dec 28 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Russia Tuesday rejected international criticism of the guilty verdict in the trial of former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, terming it an “unacceptable attempt to exert pressure on the court”.Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man and at one time seen as a potential political threat to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, was found guilty of embezzlement in a second trial Monday.

Judge Viktor Danilkin said Khodorkovsky, 47, and his business partner Platon Lebedev, 54, embezzled 218 million tonnes of oil from their former oil firm Yukos and laundered over 3 billion rubles ($97.5 million) in revenues.

The two men have already spent seven years in jail for fraud and tax evasion from their first trial.

The length of the new sentence is expected in a few days’ time, when Danilkin finishes reading the full 250-page verdict.

“Regarding the statements from Washington and several EU capitals on the trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, we would like to reiterate that it is within the cognizance of Russia’s law,” foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said.

“We expect everyone to mind their own business, both at home and in the international arena,” he added.

The US, Germany and Britain were among those who expressed concern over the trial.

The White House said it was “deeply concerned” by the verdict.

“The apparent selective application of the law to these individuals undermines Russia’s reputation as a country committed to deepening the rule of law,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

“This and similar cases have a negative impact on Russia’s reputation for fulfilling its international human rights obligations and improving its investment climate,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said it was a “step backward on the road toward a modernization of the country”.

The British foreign office said the verdict could jeopardize trade relations with Russia.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said she “expects Russia to respect its international commitments in the field of human rights and the rule of law”.

Khodorkovsky’s lawyers and human rights activists say the judge was under pressure following a remark by Putin earlier this month that “a thief belongs in jail”.

The trial is widely viewed as a political vendetta by Putin, whom Khodorkovsky challenged by funding the liberal opposition in the early 2000s.

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev have always maintained that charges against them are false.

–IANS/RIA Novosti
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