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5 Mar, 2009 21:38

Khodorkovsky lawyers want different court for trial

The lawyers of former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky have requested the proceedings be held in a different court.

Proceedings began on Monday with arguments over the legality of the prosecution and the impartiality of the judge.

On Wednesday a Moscow court rejected a request by defence lawyers for Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev to dismiss the judge in the high-profile case.

This time the claims against the former head of Yukos and Lebedev have been made by two ex-Yukos subsidiaries, Tomskneft and Samaraneftegaz, which each claim that the accused stole huge quantities of oil by means of fraud. Tomskneft is claiming 93 billion roubles, while Samaraneftegaz wants 77 billion roubles.

If found guilty, Khodorkovsky and Lebedev will have to pay 170 billion roubles (about $US 4.7 billion).

Khodorkovsky was transferred to Moscow from a Siberian prison, where since 2005 he has been serving an eight-year sentence on tax evasion charges, alongside Lebedev.