Only disappointment, no surprise at Khodorkovsky verdict

(Time Magazine) Seated in the glass defendants’ cage that his lawyers call the aquarium, Khodorkovsky smiled and giggled as the guilty verdict was read, acting more like a ticklish child than a man whose freedom was on the line. But for Khodorkovsky’s lawyers, this seemed like the only logical response to a trial that has pushed the Russian justice system deep into the realm of farce.

From the beginning, the lawyers’ challenge in this case has been responding to a set of charges that seemed inherently bizarre. Khodorkovsky stood accused of stealing an incredible 350 million tons of oil (enough to fill a small lake) from his own oil companies, some of which never even produced the amount of oil Khodorkovsky allegedly stole. Even if the theft were possible, observers of the trial were left to wonder why Khodorkovsky would steal so much from his own companies. How did those companies keep from going bankrupt if all their oil was stolen? And how could the oil be siphoned off in secret if all the country’s pipelines were controlled by the state?

* Mendeleyev Journal note regarding the Russia Today TV report above. RT is owned and operated by the Russian government and there are several factual errors in the above report. First, the court did not find that Khodorkovsky guilty of privatizing anything–Yukos was already a private company. This second trial was supposedly about tax evasion, not privatization.

(Agence France Press) The Russian Foreign Ministry slammed “unacceptable” pressure over the Mikhail Khodorkovsky trial after the United States and some EU states criticized the Russian court’s Khodorkovsky “guilty” verdict.

In a statement, the foreign ministry said: “Attempts to exert pressure on the court are unacceptable.” It added: “We expect everyone to mind his own business, both at home and in the international arena,” using an unusually sharp tone for a diplomatic statement.

The ministry argued that “Assertions about some kind of selective application of justice in Russia are groundless: Russian courts consider thousands of cases related to entrepreneurs’ responsibility towards the law.”

Agence France Press notes that the verdict provoked a strong reaction in the West, with the White House saying it was “deeply concerned” about the “selective application of justice”. France called for rule of law in Russia, while Germany said the verdict was a step backward for Russia.

Odds and Ends regarding the trials:
After Khodorkovsky’s cassation appeal was dismissed, the Prosecutor General’s Office began a campaign against the lawyers to punish them for their involvement in the case.

– International lawyer Robert Amsterdam was roused from his hotel room the night after the failed appeal, told that his visa was cancelled and ordered to leave Russia within 24 hours or face arrest.

– Karinna Moskalenko, Yuri Schmidt and Albert Mkrtychev and other lawyers from the Khodorkovsky and Lebedev defense team faced various disciplinary proceedings brought by the prosecution, including efforts to disbar them from practicing law, a request later rejected by the Board of the Chamber of Lawyers of the City of Moscow.
– Female lawyers visiting Khodorkovsky’s prison in Siberia are sometimes required to remove all their clothes, even undergarments, during searches at prison entrances.

Attorney Yuri Schmidt says that the Khodorkovsky trials have revived “the worst moments of Soviet history.”