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23 Dec, 2009 17:51

Supreme Court annuls 2003 arrest of former Yukos executive

Russia's Supreme Court has ruled that the 2003 arrest of former Yukos executive Platon Lebedev was illegal on procedural grounds and must be annulled. The decision will have no impact on his imprisonment, however.

It follows a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which found that his rights had been violated during the arrest.

Platon Lebedev was sentenced to eight years in jail after being found guilty of tax evasion and fraud in 2005, along with Mikhail Khodorkovsky, ex-head of the now bankrupt Russian oil giant Yukos.

In 2007, the authorities filed a new lawsuit against the two, bringing fresh charges of embezzlement and money laundering.

If found guilty, Lebedev and Khodorkovsky could face an additional sentence of up to 22 years.

RT's political commentator and host of CrossTalk programme Peter Lavelle says the mistake during the arrest and the actual trial and imprisonment are two different things.

“You have to remember that under Russian law if you are getting some kind of a medical treatment – you cannot be arrested. But Lebedev was a huge risk. We have to remember that he is not the nicest guy in the world. Very serious crimes were committed around him, even murder,” reminds Lavelle.

Peter Lavelle also pointed out that the Western media is wrong in waving the “flag of Yukos” in its criticism of Russia.

“This case is very much important in Russia. The Yukos affair was very important in showing that business cannot run this country. The people and government do.”