[JURIST] Robert Amsterdam [profile], international defense counsel for jailed Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky [defense website], says that Western governments are turning a blind eye to the deteriorating rule of law in Russia exemplified by his client's prosecution and recent conviction. In a JURIST op-ed [Forum text] published Thursday, Amsterdam argued that instead of insisting that Russia respect fundamental human rights, Western states are playing along in their own economic interests. Khodorkovsky has started serving a eight-year prison sentence [JURIST report] for fraud and tax evasion in connection with his management of Russian oil company Yukos [corporate website]. Amsterdam, expelled from Russia [JURIST report] in September following the denial of Khodorkovsky's first appeal, says that Western governments have resorted to get-along "fuel diplomacy" rather than pressure Russia to respect judicial independence and abide by the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights [text] and other international treaties. Amsterdam also accuses Russia of allowing "grotesque violations of the right to counsel, right to liberty and right to a fair trial" in both the Khodorkovsky trial and associated Yukos litigation.
Amsterdam's comments come as Russian officials have confirmed that Khodorkovsky and business partner Platon Lebedev have been sent to remote prisons [JURIST report] to serve their sentences. Four Russian members of Khodorkovsky's defense team are currently facing disbarment proceedings for "dragging out" their appeal of the conviction. The Kremlin prosecutor has also asked the Russian Ministry of Justice to discipline four other lawyers involved in the defense. The Canadian Press has more on Russia's treatment of Khodorkovsky's legal team.