Pronouncement of sentence for Khodorkovsky postponed

The announcement of the verdict in the second criminal case against former Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky and former Menatep head Platon Lebedev has been postponed until the end of December.

The sentence will be pronounced on December 27, an announcement posted on the Khamovnichesky Courthouse entrance says. A court spokeswoman also said on Wednesday that the judge has delayed delivering the verdict.

Both men are serving their first eight-year prison term. In 2005, they were found guilty of fraud and tax evasion.

Lawyers and the public expected the sentence to be pronounced on Wednesday. However, a lawyer following the trial told Interfax that judge Viktor Danilkin should observe “consultation room secrecy.” So he cannot contact even the court’s press secretary before the sentence is pronounced.

When Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003 before the first trial, he was Russia’s richest man. Prosecutors are demanding 14 years in prison for him and his business partner Lebedev in the second criminal case.

Khodorkovsky has always insisted on his innocence. Last month he said before court proceedings that “my principles are worth my life.” He claims the prosecution failed to establish his guilt in the second case.

Prosecutors accuse Khodorkovsky and Lebedev of embezzling 218 million tonnes of oil from Yukos’s subsidiary companies. The former Yukos head said his actions “were legal.”  During the 19-month trial, the prosecution “has not managed to prove” their position, he stressed.

The charges against the defendants "have been substantiated,” prosecutors insist. They also claim they had asked for "a lesser punishment for the defendants." According to the prosecution, earlier adopted amendments regarding economic crimes were taken into account.