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Europe rights court rules Khodorkovsky trial was not political

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ruled [judgment] Thursday that the 2005 trial and conviction of former Russian oil executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky [defense website; JURIST news archive] and his business partner Platon Lebedev [JURIST news archive] was not politically motivated. The court, however, did find that various aspects of the court proceedings violated articles of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF]. Among other things, the court cited [press release] a violation of the sections of Article 5 dealing with a right to liberty and security, due to the length of Lebedev's detention on remand. The court also found a violation of Article 8 and the right to respect for private and family life, due to the transfer of Khodorkovskiy and Lebedev to penal colonies in Siberia and the Far North. The court stated that it was "prepared to admit that some government officials had their own reasons to push for the applicants' prosecution. However, it was insufficient to conclude that the applicants would not have been convicted otherwise." Lawyers for Khodorkovskiy and Lebedev argued that Russia should immediately quash the convictions [Telegraph report] and release the men from prison.

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are each serving prison sentences for fraud, theft and money laundering. In 2010 former Russian prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov [BBC profile] testified that President Vladimir Putin [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] had ordered the arrest [JURIST report] of Khodorkovsky for political reasons. Kasyanov stated that Putin indicated that Khodorkovsky had funded the Communist Party without approval from the president, prompting his arrest. In December the Human Rights Ombudsman [backgrounder] in Russia, Vladimir Lukin [official profile], filed an appeal [JURIST report] in a Moscow court following the ruling against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, because the two men were ordered to pay restitution for the same losses twice, once in 2005 and once in 2010. In the same month, Khodorkovsky and Lebedev had their sentences commuted [JURIST report] by the Moscow City Court from 13 years to 11 years, making both men eligible for release in 2014.

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