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4 Mar, 2009 17:12

Defense lawyers fail to remove judge in Khodorkovsky case

The judge considering the case against Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev will not be objective and should be changed, said the lawyer for the two businessmen.

A Moscow court has rejected a request by the defense lawyers for Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev to dismiss the judge in the high-profile case.

“We were refused the removal, as the judge decided there’s no ground for that provided by the law,” Lebedev’s lawyer Elena Liptser told Interfax.

Earlier, Lipster said the Khamovnichesky court should not be permitted to handle the case as it is not in its jurisdiction.

Lipster warned the prosecution that “should the court choose to continue to keep the defendants under arrest, it will be illegal and we will appeal to the European court of Human Rights.”

The lawyer for the defendants argued that “keeping them under arrest is against the law since the decision has been made by a judge who doesn’t have the legal right to handle the case.”

Another defense lawyer, Natalia Terekhova, said the prosecution had named Danilkin as its preferred judge for the case in a letter accompanying the case papers – an action that, according to the defense, cast doubts on his integrity.

The decision comes on the second day of preliminary hearings preceding the trial of the former Yukos head, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his partner, Platon Lebedev, who are charged with embezzlement and money laundering. Both men are already serving prison sentences in a separate fraud case.

The trial will continue on Thursday.