Experts Analyze the Case Against Russia’s Yukos Oil Company

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Mikhail Khodorkovsky was once considered Russia’s most successful businessman. Last week he appealed to the President of Russia to reconsider the case of the now defunct Yukos Oil Company. In his message, he asked Dmitry Medvedev to protect the court from the pressure of the authorities.

In late December the Khamovnichesky Court of Moscow found the former the owners of Yukos Oil Compnay - Khodorkovsky and Lebedev - guilty of embezzling hundreds of millions of tons of oil and money laundering. They were sentenced to 14 years in prison. At that time the accused had already spent seven years in custody. In 2004 they were convicted of tax evasion. Now the verdict is under appeal.International observers say the case against Yukos is politically motivated.Experts in Russia believe the trial entertained statements that affected the fairness of the verdict.

[Henry Reznik, Member, Public Chamber of Russia]:
"The statement of senior government officials about the guilt or innocence of the defendants before the verdict is a flagrant violation of the presumption of innocence."

In turn, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev suggested that the expert community prepare a legal analysis in the case of Yukos, as well as other relevant processes. The working group on civic engagement in judicial reform will start to do this.

[Mikhail Fedotov, Human Rights Activist]:
"Speaking about the case of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, there should be an independent expert group. Its task is not to verify the legality of the sentence - a higher court does it, not to check the validity of the findings - a higher court also does it, but to review the legal position expressed in the verdict of the court.”

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev refuse to petition for a pardon, and they do not recognize they are guilty.

NTD News, Moscow, Russia

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