Russia's Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights will look into the verdicts handed down against former Russian oil executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky [defense website; JURIST news archive] and his business partner Platon Lebedev [defense website]. During a recent council meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official website, in Russian; JURIST news archive], council member Tamara Morshchakova, a former judge for the Constitutional Court [official website, in Russian] announced that the Council is planning to submit special analysis [transcript, in Russian] for certain high-profile cases, including those of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, as well as Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergei Magnitsky [JURIST news archive]. Morshchakova said:
The Council plans to submit to you expert legal analysis in connection with specific cases causing public outcry or defining trend of judicial practice. ... [M]aterials will be presented to Council shortly in connection with the case of well-known business lawyer Magnitsky. A similar expert analysis is being prepared by the Council on the relatively recent verdict in the case of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev. It is clear that expert legal analysis of such processes may not have direct legal consequences. But it's is certainly intended that the state authorities take necessary response action, if the legal review of these processes are inconsistent with the law.Morshchakova also noted the council put forth a proposal to expand the use of jury trials in Russia. According to her, juries are an effective measure to fight corruption and develop a truly independent justice system. In particular, the Council's proposal seeks to increase the use of jury trials in cases involving murder, bribery and some types of economic crimes.
In January, Khodorkovsky and Lebedev's lawyers filed an appeal [JURIST report] challenging their six-year extended sentences for embezzlement and fraud. Unless the appeal succeeds, Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are expected to remain imprisoned through 2017 after being convicted in December and sentenced [JURIST reports] in the Khamovinchesky District Court [official website, in Russian] on charges connected with his embezzlement of more than $27 billion from Yukos oil. Prior to this conviction, Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were already serving eight-year prison sentences for fraud and tax evasion [JURIST report]. Magnitsky was arrested after implicating Russian police [WP report] in a multimillion-dollar embezzlement scandal, while working as outside counsel for the London-based investment fund Hermitage Capital Management [corporate website]. Prior to his death, Magnitsky was held in prison for 358 days with little to no access to legal representation, his family or medical professionals. It is suspected that torture played a part in his death. In January, Magnitsky's former colleague William Browder announced that a group of independent UN human rights experts will investigate [JURIST report] the well-known lawyer's 2009 prison death [JURIST report].