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Russia Supreme Court rules arrest of former Yukos oil executive was illegal

[JURIST] The Russian Supreme Court [official website, in Russian] ruled Wednesday that the 2003 arrest of Platon Lebedev [defense website], business partner of former Yukos oil executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky [defense website; JURIST news archive], was illegal. The court agreed to review [JURIST report] Lebedev's arrest last week after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ruled [JURIST report] in 2007 that Lebedev's arrest and pre-trial detention violated his right to liberty and security under Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF]. The ECHR awarded awarded Lebedev more than USD $4,300 in damages and almost $10,000 to cover legal fees. It is unclear what effect Wednesday's ruling will have on Lebedev's case, but it could pave the way for a broader legal challenge to the proceedings.

Platon and Lebedev are serving an eight-year prison sentence after being convicted [JURIST report] in 2005 on fraud and tax evasion charges stemming from an alleged attempt to embezzle and strip Yukos of valuable assets. The two are currently on trial on additional related charges of money laundering and embezzlement, to which they have pleaded not guilty [JURIST reports]. They could face up to 20 additional years in prison if convicted. Critics have claimed that the charges against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are politically motivated due to Khodorkovsky's opposition against former Russian president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin [JURIST news archive].

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