[JURIST] The Moscow City Court [official website, in Russian] commuted the sentences [press release, in Russian] of jailed Russian oil executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky [defense website; JURIST news archive] and his business partner Platon Lebedev [defense website; JURIST news archive] Thursday from 13 years to 11 years. Both are now eligible for release in 2014 [RIA Novosti report], with Lebedev expected to be released in August and Khodorkovsky in October. Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are each serving prison sentences for fraud, theft and money laundering. Khodorkovsky has denied all the charges and maintains that he was falsely convicted as retribution for funding opposition parties during a former presidency of current President Vladimir Putin [BBC profile]. Last month it was reported [JURIST report] that Lebedev’s sentence had been reduced to 10 years with potential release in the coming summer, but the latest order modifies that to 11 years.
In July a senior Russian judge ordered a court to review [JURIST report] Khodorkovsky’s appeal. Opposition leaders and other groups have shown skepticism about the validity of Khodorkovsky’s sentence. In December the Russia Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights under President Dmitry Medvedev called for the prosecutor general to petition to annul the conviction [JURIST report]. Describing the verdict as fictitious, council member and former Constitutional Court judge, Tamara Morshchakova, noted the council found neither evidence nor substance to the charges brought against Khodorkovsky in the second trial. The council’s decisions are non-binding and have seldom elicited action from Russian authorities. In July the council urged amnesty for economic crimes in a meeting with Medvedev that would include amnesty for the crimes of Khodorkovsky. Last year former Russian prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov testified [JURIST report] that former president and current prime minister Vladimir Putin ordered Khodorkovsky’s arrest for political reasons, indicating that Khodorkovsky had funded the Communist Party without first getting approval to do so from the president.