Court reduces Russian tycoon’s prison term by one year

May 25th, 2011 - 7:03 am ICT by IANS  

Moscow, May 25 (IANS) The Moscow City Court upheld Tuesday a sentence against Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his partner Platon Lebedev, reducing their 14-year prison terms by one year. The verdict, however, drew criticism from many quarters.

The decision was taken during an appeal hearing against a verdict announced late last year to sentence the former executives of the Yukos oil company to six years in prison for embezzlement and money laundering. The two men were already serving eight year sentences for fraud, RIA Novosti reported.

The ruling means that the pair will remain behind bars until well after the March 2012 presidential elections in Russia.

In a speech to the court Tuesday, Khodorkovsky said the charges against him and the sentence which had been handed down were “absurd”.

The court also upheld a decision to close a criminal case against the two men on allegations of stealing shares in VNK (Eastern Oil Company) as the term of the case has expired. VNK was privatised by Yukos in 1997 in a controversial auction.

Under Russian law, when a case is closed, it means the suspect is neither found guilty nor cleared of the charges. Khodorkovsky and Lebedev wanted the case to be reopened.

Russian Institute for Human Rights director Valentin Gefter described Tuesday’s decision as a further defeat for the Russian judiciary.

“To make a decision on such a difficult case in one day means not to consider it deeply, but just to take a formal track,” he said.

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International declared Tuesday jailed Russian tycoons Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev “prisoners of conscience” after a second prison sentence against them was upheld.

“For several years now these two men have been trapped in a judicial vortex that answers to political not legal considerations,” Amnesty Europe and Central Asia director Nicola Duckworth said. “Today’s verdict makes it clear that Russia’s lower courts are unable, or unwilling, to deliver justice in their cases.”

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she was “deeply disappointed” by the decision of the Moscow City Court to uphold the verdict in the jailed Russian tycoons Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev case, RIA Novosti reported in another report.

“I remain troubled by allegations of numerous violations in due process which reflect systemic problems within the Russian judiciary,” the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy said in a statement.

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