Khodorkovsky verdict to be checked

Former head of YUKOS Mikhail Khodorkovsky in Moscow City Court (RIA Novosti / Iliya Pitalev)
Russia’s outgoing president, Dmitry Medvedev, has ordered the Prosecutor General to examine the legitimacy of court verdicts on 32 Russian nationals, including jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

­The legitimacy and validity of the verdicts must be checked by April 1, 2012, according to the Kremlin press service.

Dmitry Medvedev signed the order following a meeting in late February with the leaders of political parties who did not make it to the Duma at parliamentary elections in December 2011. 

The opposition leaders then presented President Medvedev with a list of people they regarded as political prisoners and asked him to re-examine their verdicts. The list reportedly contained more than 32 names.

Among the 32 names which are now on the list are that of the former Yukos CEO, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, his partner Platon Lebedev, and Yukos security chief Aleksey Pichugin, who received a life sentence.

In December 2010, Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were sentenced to 13.5 years each in a penal colony for theft of oil and money laundering, in a second case against them. The businessmen had already been sentenced to eight years in prison in 2005 for fraud and tax evasion. The second sentence is concurrent with the original one, meaning that time already served is deducted from the new term. Both are expected to remain behind bars until 2016.

Opposition leaders and activists have repeatedly appealed to the president to review the cases of the jailed businessmen. The demand was also included in a resolution made at mass opposition rallies in Moscow which shook the capital after parliamentary elections in December 2011.

The announcement came a day after Russia’s presidential elections. However the presidential press service insisted its timing was not designed to coincide with the vote count.

“Some time needed to pass after the meeting with the opposition,” explained Natalya Timakova.