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Court Shaves Prison Term For Khodorkovsky, Lebedev

  • RFE/RL's Russian Service

Jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky appeared via video at the appeal before the Supreme Court in Moscow on August 6.

Jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky appeared via video at the appeal before the Supreme Court in Moscow on August 6.

Russia's Supreme Court has reduced by two months the 11-year sentence imposed on former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner, Platon Lebedev.

The court issued its ruling on August 6 after considering a complaint by Khodorkovsky's lawyers that his arrest was illegal and the length of his prison sentence was unfair.

The court's decision means Khodorkovsky should be released in August 2014. Lebedev's release is now expected in May 2014.

Khodorkovsky, 50, former CEO of Yukos oil giant, once Russia's richest man, and his business partner Lebedev were arrested in 2003 and convicted in 2005 of evading taxes in the case widely seen as President Vladimir Putin's revenge for Khodorkovsky's challenge to his power.

In 2010, he and Lebedev were sentenced to additional time in jail on charges of embezzlement and money laundering.

Last month, Europe's top human rights court dismissed claims that Khodorkovsky was prosecuted for political reasons in the first case but said that some procedures during the first trial against him were unfair.

One of the lawyers representing Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, Vadim Klyuvgant, said the defense would appeal the ruling, which also upheld the 2010 guilty verdict.

"We will continue to fight," Klyuvgant said. "I'm not going to comment on these two months that were so generously gifted by the Supreme Court, it's all clear here. We will continue to fight for the truth. So far we haven't seen any law or justice in this case."

Another defense lawyer, Vladimir Krasnov, called the verdict "unlawful."

"Of course, two months in prison or two months of freedom make a difference. But this is not what we are talking about today or have been talking about for the past 10 years," Krasnov said. "Considering that there were no legal grounds for a criminal case to begin with, everything that is happening now is a mockery of justice."

Khodorkovsky's mother, Marina Khodorkovskaya, had harsh words for those who issued the decision.

"This is exactly what I expected," Khodorkovskaya said. "I don't even call these people judges. They are not judges, they are clerks. I call them announcers in black robes, who just read out what they were told from above."

Khodorkovsky's father, Boris Khodorkovsky, reiterated that his son is innocent.

"Of course, every day counts there, every day," the elder Khodorkovsky said. "So we're grateful for at least these two months. But when they imprison someone who is guilty, it is at least understandable. When they imprison someone for I don't know what -- I know for certain they didn't steal any money, they didn't need it."

Addressing the Supreme Court via video link from his prison colony in Karelia in northwestern Russia, Khodorkovsky expressed concerns that investigators are preparing yet another set of charges to keep him behind bars.

With reporting by Interfax, ITAR-TASS, and Reuters