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Russia trials without juries unfair to accused: Khodorkovsky

[JURIST] Russian trials decided by juries are currently restricted, creating hopeless situations for those accused of crimes who choose not to plead guilty, according to former oil executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky [defense website; JURIST news archive] on Friday. In a statement [text] released on his defense website, Khodorkovsky, who is currently on trial for embezzlement, expressed his hope that this, his second trial, will turn out completely different from his first, writing:

Today one who does not plead guilty, unless his case is tried by a jury court, is guaranteed to make his situation significantly worse because:

- He will get a guilty verdict
- His jail term will be extended, AND
- There will be no hope for early release.

I believe that people ready for such a sacrifice for the sake of the truth, deserve public attention.
This statement comes just months after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official profile] signed into law amendments allowing trials for treason and terrorism to be adjudicated without juries [JURIST report]. Khodorkovsky is expected to play a stronger role [RIA Novosti report] in his own defense in his upcoming trial. Khodorkovsky's trial, as well as that of his former business partner, Platon Lebedev, is due to begin March 31.

Pre-trial arguments began earlier this month [JURIST report]. Critics have claimed that the charges against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are politically motivated due to Khodorkovsky's opposition of former Russian president Vladimir Putin [JURIST news archive]. The transfer of the two from prison to Moscow to stand trial on the new charges was ordered [JURIST report] last month by a judge for the District Court in Moscow. Khodorkovsky still maintains that his 2005 conviction [JURIST report] on the fraud and tax evasion was unjust, and maintains his innocence. He requested early release from that sentence last July, but his application was rejected [JURIST reports] in August because he disobeyed guards at the Krasnokamensk penal colony [Guardian backgrounder], refused to participate in a training program, and faced the possibility of additional charges. Khodorkovsky has appealed [JURIST report] that decision.

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