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St. Petersburg Writers Urge Medvedev To Stop 'Persecution' Of Khodorkovsky

Khodorkovsky is currently on trial

Khodorkovsky is currently on trial

ST. PETERSBURG -- A group of well-known writers in St. Petersburg has urged President Dmitry Medvedev to "stop the persecution" of former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

The writers sent an open letter to Medvedev asking him to stop the second criminal case against the jailed Khodorkovsky and his associate, Platon Lebedev.

One of the writers who signed the letter, Daniil Granin, told RFE/RL that "the current trial of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev has turned into something completely lawless, and we just tried to raise our concerns in order to wake society up."

"An unjust verdict, in the event that it is pronounced, will hit not only the defendants, but also would become an obstacle on the way to a robust society and economy," the letter says.

Among signatories to the letter are Konstantin Azadovsky, Yakov Gordin, Nina Katerli, Aleksandr Rubashkin, and Boris Strugatsky.

Last month, Russian prosecutors demanded that Khodorkovsky and Lebedev be imprisoned for an additional six years if convicted in their second trial.

Prosecutors initially asked for a 14-year sentence, but later said they want that to include an eight-year sentence that Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are
serving that is due to end in October 2011.

Khodorkovsky, the former head of the Yukos oil company, and Lebedev have both pleaded not guilty to embezzlement charges. The two were convicted in 2005 on fraud and tax-evasion charges that critics say were trumped up to punish the tycoon for financing opposition parties.

At the time of his arrest in 2003, Khodorkovsky was Russia's richest man and seen as a political rival to President Vladimir Putin.

The two went on trial again on March 3, 2009, on fresh charges of embezzling millions of tons of oil and money laundering.