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Russia court denies parole for ex-Yukos oil executive

A court in the Arkhangelsk region of Russia on Wednesday denied parole for former Yukos oil executive Platon Lebedev [defense website]. Lebedev and his former business partner Mikhail Khodorkovsky [defense website; JURIST news archive] were convicted in December and sentenced [JURIST reports] in the Khamovinchesky District Court [official website, in Russian] on charges connected with embezzling more than $27 billion from Yukos oil. Lebedev's lawyer indicated he would appeal [RIA Novosti report] the court's parole denial. 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.

Russia's Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights announced in February that it will look into the verdicts [JURIST report] handed down against Lebedev and Khodorkovsky. Prior to this conviction, Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were already serving eight-year prison sentences for fraud and tax evasion [JURIST report]. International human rights organizations and numerous governments criticized Russia's justice system following the guilty verdict [JURIST reports]. Last year, former Russian prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov [BBC profile] testified [JURIST report] that former president and current prime minister Vladimir Putin [official website; JURIST news archive] 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. Some critics of the Russian government have argued that the charges against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are politically motivated [JURIST op-ed] due to Khodorkovsky's opposition to Putin. 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. The statement echoed concerns Khodorkovsky had previously expressed about the fairness of Russian trials and the need for widespread reform of the Russian court system [JURIST reports].

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