Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s case: Chapter Two

A Moscow court has begun hearing the second case against Yukos oil company founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev.

Both have been transferred from a Siberian prison, where they are serving their current terms, to Moscow for the hearings.

Khodorkovsky used an opening statement to accuse the authorities of having separate laws for themselves and for the people, and also said the second trial was just an extention of political interests and personal motives.

"It is such obvious injustice in our country that generates large-scale legal nihilism. Authorities should start with themselves or they shouldn't expect society to take them seriously – and support them," he said, speaking from within a a glass-and-metal cage where he and Lebedev are enclosed during the trial.

The case is being monitored by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for changes to the Russian legal system. Its representative Sabina Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said she was watching the trial "consciously" and with concern.Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003 on charges of tax fraud. All his assets were confiscated and the company came under state control. In 2005, he was found guilty of the charges put against him and sentenced to nine years in prison. Later, the sentence was reduced to eight years.

In 2006, new charges were put against him. He is now accused of tax evasion and laundering some $20 billion. If found guilty of these charges, Mikhail Khodorkovsky could face up to another 22 years behind bars.