Khodorkovsky Marks 50th Birthday in Prison
Screengrab: Al Jazeera English
Freedom House today sends its best wishes to Mikhail Khodorkovsky on his 50th birthday. Khodorkovsky, currently serving sentences after convictions in two lengthy and politically motivated trials, has become known worldwide as an outspoken advocate for individual and economic freedoms after his arrest in 2003 and subsequent prosecutions designed to silence him and intimidate other potential dissenting voices.
Previously one of the wealthiest people in Russia and the head of once the country’s largest oil company Yukos, Khodorkovsky, after an apparent fallout with Putin, was arrested in 2003 and subsequently sentenced to 9 years in prison on a conviction for fraud and tax evasion. In 2010, while serving his first sentence, he was convicted of embezzlement and money laundering in a separate, but equally politically charged trial. Khodorkovsky’s term, recently revised, is currently set to expire in 2014 but rumors are circulating that investigators will laumnch a third case against him and his co-defendant, Platon Lebedev.
Khodorkovsky has written extensively from behind prison bars on issues related to politics, human rights, economic freedom, history, and the future of Russia; his works have been published internationally and have become a source of inspiration to many. The legacy of his commitment to supporting a vibrant civil society in Russia also lives in the thousands of people who have worked, volunteered or taken part in the activities of the Open Russia Foundation he once started, as well as alumni of other very successful civic education projects, such as Federation for Internet Education, The New Civilization Program, or Podmoskovny Lyceum.
“Throughout the years of unfair trials and imprisonment, Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been a visionary and a steadfast supporter of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” said Freedom House president David J. Kramer. “He is truly a model of dignity and grace under tremendous pressure and difficulty in the modern-day Russia. On this day, Freedom House wishes strength and good health to Mr. Khodorkovsky and hopes that he will be celebrating his subsequent birthdays at home with family and friends.”