Putin’s Remarks on Khodorkovsky Show Blatant Disrespect for Rule of Law | Page 71 | Freedom House

Putin’s Remarks on Khodorkovsky Show Blatant Disrespect for Rule of Law

Washington

Freedom House today renewed its deep concern about the fairness and impartiality of the pending court decision in the case of former Yukos head, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in light of comments made by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during a call-in session with the Russian public.  
  
Asked by a viewer about the fairness of the eight-year sentence Khodorkovsky is currently serving on charges of tax evasion, Putin borrowed a famous line from a popular Soviet film, replying “a thief must sit in prison.” He also said that the crimes of Mr. Khodorkovsky "were proven in court," before any verdict has been rendered in this latest trial. Putin concluded his remarks by calling the Russian court one of the “most humane in the world.”  

“The Russian prime minister's remarks are utterly irresponsible and make a mockery of the justice system by overtly prejudging a verdict before the court issues its decision,” remarked David J. Kramer, Executive Director of Freedom House. “Mr. Putin once again has demonstrated his scornful disregard for rule of law, directly contradicting President Medvedev’s pledges to eradicate legal nihilism and dashing hopes for a justice system free from political pressure.”
 
Putin's comments reflect the steep and systematic decline in rule of law in Russia that has been identified by Freedom House and other monitors. Mikhail Khodorkovsky is currently awaiting a verdict in a second trial that could add an additional fourteen years in prison to his present term, which many see as an effort by Putin to keep him behind bars until after the presidential election in 2012. Khodorkovsky’s first trial in 2005 was widely seen as a farce and rigged to silence one of the Kremlin's perceived critics.
 
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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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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