Khodorkovsky/Lebedev Re-Conviction Highlights Russia's Mis-Rule of Law | Freedom House

Khodorkovsky/Lebedev Re-Conviction Highlights Russia's Mis-Rule of Law

Washington

Freedom House today condemned the finding of a Moscow court that Russian businessmen Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev were guilty of charges that either duplicate or contradict charges of which they were convicted nearly seven years ago.  While the court, by its own rules, must read out the full conviction before sentencing, the proceedings in this case were characterized more by their irregularities rather than by rule of law, Freedom House said.

"This decision smacks of political interference," said Freedom House Executive Director David J. Kramer. "On December 16, we expressed outrage when Russia's Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, spoke about the case while it was still under active consideration by the court -- in violation of Russia's own constitution," Kramer added.  "Today's decision validates the notion that Russia suffers from mis-rule of law, not rule of law."

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were arrested in 2003 on a series of charges related to the private oil company, YUKOS, which Khodorkovsky founded.  At that time, the international business media had widely considered YUKOS to be an emerging model of corporate transparency in Russia.  Many speculated that the real reason Khodorkovsky was arrested, and later convicted, stemmed from his support of opposition political parties and his personal enmity with Putin. Cases of political and economic consequence are believed to receive special treatment in the Russian judicial system.

"Each year, the United States brings hundreds of Russian jurists and legal officials to the United States for exchanges with our own independent judiciary," Freedom House Senior Program Manager for Eurasia Sam Patten said, adding, "it suggests they are not applying lessons learned back at home.  Perhaps it is time to start applying new tests to candidates for such exchanges to weed out those who are little more than puppets for Russia's autocratic regime."

Russia is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2010, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2010.
 
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