ECHR finds Khodorkovsky conviction not political, but detention violated rights

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[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] on Tuesday found [judgment text] that former Russian oil executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky [defense website; JURIST news archive] did not prove his conviction for tax evasion and fraud were politically motivated but that his detention violated human rights standards. The ECHR found violations of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms [text] due to the conditions of his detention, the speed and circumstances under which the charges were brought against him, and with the length of continued detention pending the investigation and trial. The ECHR found that he was held in an inhuman detention unit from August 2005 though October 2005 and that his forcible arrest to be brought as a witness with subsequent charges went beyond what were necessary. The ECHR rejected Khodorkovsky’s political motivation claim saying he did not meet his high burden:

The Court admits that the applicant’s case may raise a certain suspicion as to the real intent of the authorities, and that this state of suspicion might be sufficient for the domestic courts to refuse extradition, deny legal assistance, issue injunctions against the Russian Government, make pecuniary awards, etc. However, it is not sufficient for this Court to conclude that the whole legal machinery of the respondent State in the present case was ab intio misused, that from the beginning to the end the authorities were acting with bad faith and in blatant disregard of the Convention. This is a very serious claim which requires an incontrovertible and direct proof. Such proof… is absent from the case under examination.

The ECHR complaint originated in February 2004 claiming violations of the Convention about his arrest. Russia is a signatory of the Convention. The ECHR awarded Khodorkovsky € 10,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage, and € 14,543 for costs and expenses, which will be up to the Russian courts to enforce.

Last week, a Moscow court upheld the second fraud convictions [JURIST report] against Khodorkovsky 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] the 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. 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.”

Read more detail on JURIST – Paper Chase

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