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Swiss high court rejects handover of Yukos documents for 'political' prosecution

[JURIST] The Swiss Federal Tribunal [official website], Switzerland's supreme court, ruled Thursday that Swiss authorities cannot hand over to Russia financial documents linked to Russian oil giant Yukos [corporate website; JURIST news archive], finding that the Russian prosecution of former Yukos owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky [defense website; JURIST news archive] and his business partner Platon Lebedev [JURIST news archive] was politically motivated. Referring to Khodorkovsky, the court said that facts led it "to the inference that the appellant is under pursuit for hidden motives, notably in relation to his political opinions” and that the Russian government had prosecuted Khodorkovsky to “sideline declared or potential political adversaries.” The ruling, which overrides a December decision by the Swiss Attorney General to share the documents with Russia, is final and cannot be appealed. Philippe Neyroud, the Swiss lawyer acting for Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, told AFP that the ruling was unprecedented. “For the first time, with the exception of extradition requests, Switzerland has rejected legal assistance to a state on the grounds of violations of human rights.”

The Swiss court has already frozen at least $48 million of Swiss funds tied to Yukos and last year had temporarily refused [JURIST report] to release the funds to Russian authorities since they failed to meet Swiss standards for judicial assistance. Russia suspects that Swiss accounts hold money from illegal Yukos deals involving fertilizer, oil, and oil products. In 2005, Khodorkovsky was sentenced [JURIST report] by a Russian court to eight years in prison on charges of fraud and tax evasion. The Swiss court has been involved in the Yukos investigation since March 2004 in connection with the questionable funds. Reuters has more. Newsru.com has more.

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