[QODLink]
Europe
Russia rejects trial criticism
Foreign ministry bristles at foreign criticism over second corruption conviction for oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Last Modified: 29 Dec 2010 02:19 GMT

 
Neave Barker reports from Moscow on the reaction to Khodorkovsky's guilty verdict.

Russia has fired back at foreign criticisms over the second conviction of a jailed oil tycoon, saying that other governments should "mind their own business".

On Tuesday, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, and other Western leaders criticised the guilty verdict handed to billionaire businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky on Monday. 

Clinton said the conviction raised "serious questions about selective prosecution and about the rule of
law being overshadowed by political considerations".

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt wrote in a blog post on Tuesday that the ruling "makes
it difficult to liberate oneself from the suspicion that the verdict was steered by political dictate rather than by judicial balance".

Germany called the ruling a step backward, while a statement from Canada said that "political
considerations should have no role in the judicial process".

Russia's foreign ministry bristled at the criticisms and singled out the United States in particular.

"We expect everyone to mind their own business - at home and in the international arena,'' the ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. 

The case against Khodorkovsky and his business partner involves "serious charges of tax evasion and money laundering" and "in the United States, by the way, people are given life sentences for such crimes''.

'Politicised case'

On Monday, as police scuffled with demonstrators chanting "Freedom!" outside the Moscow courthouse where the trial has taken place, judge Vladimir Danilkin found the jailed tycoon and his business partner Platon Lebedev guilty of embezzling $27bn worth of oil.

Al Jazeera's Neave Barker, reporting from the capital, said that a lesser charge involving the theft of shares of an oil company has been dropped.

"All indications are now that the two may well spend another six years in prison, bringing their total period of incarceration to 14 years," he said.

The complete verdict may take up to five days to read.

Khodorkovsky , who has sponsored political rivals of Vladimir Putin, Russia's former president and current prime minister, is already serving an eight-year sentence for tax evasion in a case his supporters say is politically motivated.

Khodorkovsky himself had always insisted that the case against him amounted to a vendetta.

US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks indicate that US officials feel the charges against Khodorkovsky are politically motivated.

One cable states that Khodorkovsky's trial reveals "the effort that GOR (government of Russia) is willing to expend in order to save face, in this case by applying a superficial rule-of-law gloss to a cynical system where political enemies are eliminated with impunity."

"Khodorkovsky had somewhat resigned himself to spending old age behind bars," our correspondent said.

"His supporters, his defence team and he himself, along with his associate Platon Lebedev, believe that this was very much a politicised case; that Khodorkovsky was being punished for mixing essentially business and politics in the 1990s; punished for having political ambitions that directly challenged the authority of former president Vladimir Putin," said Barker.

'External pressure'

Vadim Klyuvgant, Khodorkovsky's lawyer, said external pressure on Viktor Danilkin, the judge, influenced the guilty verdict.

"From what we are hearing, we have no hesitation in saying that the court was under pressure. The court was not free to make a decision, because even if they theoretically found some kind of a crime, a free and reasonably-thinking man couldn't have written the things in the verdict a priori (according to the facts) couldn't have happened," he said.

Klyuvgant also told hundreds of supporters and media gathered outside of the courthouse before the verdict on Monday that he will appeal the decision.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Israel's Operation Protective Edge is the third major offensive on the Gaza Strip in six years.
Muslims and Arabs in the US say they face discrimination in many areas of life, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks.
At one UN site alone, approximately four children below the age of five are dying each day.
Featured
The conservative UMP party suffers from crippling internal divisions and extreme debt from mismanagement.
More than fifty years of an armed struggle for independence from Spain might be coming to an end in the Basque Country.
After the shooting-down of flight MH17, relatives ask what the carrier has learned from still-missing MH370.
Human rights and corporate responsibility prompt a US church to divest from companies doing business with Israel.
Afghan militias have accumulated a lengthy record of human-rights abuses, including murders and rapes.
join our mailing list