Former Yukos head appeals for early release

Lawyers for the jailed founder of the Yukos oil company, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, have appealed for his early release from a Siberian prison.

Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, was convicted in 2005 of fraud and tax evasion and sentenced to eight years in prison. He became eligible for early release last autumn after serving half of his sentence.

According to his defence, Khodorkovsky voiced hope the courts would be more objective after Dmitry Medvedev became president.

Yury Shmidt, Khodorkovsky’s lawyer, noted that every prisoner, with a few exceptions, has a right to parole.

“This is not an exceptional procedure. This is not a request for pardon or amnesty. It is something all prisoners who are serving their sentences may apply for. This procedure does not require an admission of guilt, nor a confession. For the court to meet the request the prisoner should prove with his behaviour proves he’s reformed,” Shmidt said.

However, Khodorkovsky’s lawyers add that even if parole is granted, Khodorkovsky will remain in prison to serve a second term for separate charges.

Meanwhile, experts believe Khodorkovsky’s chances of parole are looking bleak.
 
“I think he doesn’t have much chance of having his request granted. But this could be a good enough reason to go to the European Court of Human Rights. And I think this is a step that his defence is going to make,” law professor Lyudmila Ayvar said.