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Russia appeals court upholds Khodorkovsky conviction, reduces sentence

The Moscow City Court [official website, in Russian] on Tuesday upheld the second fraud convictions [press release, in Russian; video, in Russian] of former Russian oil executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky [defense website; JURIST news archive] and his business partner Platon Lebedev [defense website; JURIST news archive] but reduced their eight-year sentences to seven years. The two men, already serving a sentence handed down in 2005 for fraud and tax evasion, were convicted in December of embezzling from their company, Yukos Oil, and sentenced [JURIST reports] to an additional eight years. They appealed, alleging, among other things, that Judge Viktor Danilkin did not write the verdict [JURIST reports] and that he was coerced into reading it. Khodorkovsky vehemently criticized [press release] Tuesday's ruling as flying in the face of the rule of law. The two men can now expect to be released in 2016 instead of 2017. Their lawyers plan to appeal [WP report] to the European Court of Human Rights [official website].

The December verdict drew harsh international criticism [JURIST report], including from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile], who said [press release] that the ruling "raises serious questions about selective prosecution." The Russian Ministry for Foreign Affairs [official website, in Russian] dismissed critics, saying [press release, in Russian] that "[a]ttempts to exert pressure on the court are unacceptable." Last May, former Russian prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov [BBC profile] testified [JURIST report] that Vladimir Putin ordered Khodorkovsky's arrest for political reasons, indicating that Khodorkovsky had funded the Communist Party [party website, in Russian] without first getting approval to do so from the president. In March 2010, Khodorkovsky criticized Russia's justice system [JURIST report] as an "assembly line" that inevitably finds the government's political enemies to be guilty.

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