Russia begins second trial of Khodorkovsky

March 31st, 2009 - 11:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Moscow, March 31 (RIA Novosti) A Moscow court Tuesday rejected jailed ex-tycoon and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s request that state oil company Rosneft be removed from a list of complainants in the second trial against him.
The Khamovnichesky court began hearings Tuesday on new charges against Khodorkovsky of embezzling about $50 billion from his former company Yukos’s affiliate, which could see his jail term extended by 21 years.

Rosneft has filed a damages suit against the businessman and his business partner, Platon Lebedev, for an undisclosed sum. Rosneft bought up the bulk of Yukos’s assets when the oil company was split and sold off to meet debts.

Khodorkovsky said Rosneft’s and the federal property agency’s presence in the list of complainants was illegal as they had not owned stakes in Eastern Oil Company (VNK), Yukos’s affiliate whose shares the businessmen are accused of misappropriating in 1998-2000.

Defence lawyers for Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, who are serving eight-year sentences on fraud and tax evasion charges, have termed their clients political prisoners, and the new charges “disgraceful” and unsubstantiated.

Khodorkovsky again accused prosecutors Tuesday of refusing to carry out a fair investigation into the new charges.

“Personally, I am fed up with all of this,” he said in a statement.

The court earlier rejected the defence request to drop the new charges and return the case for further investigation, as well as to change the judge and state prosecutors over alleged bias.

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