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Khodorkovskii Vows To Appeal Conviction

Prague, 31 May 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The legal team representing former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii has vowed to appeal the conviction and nine-year prison term imposed on the former Russian oil tycoon by a Moscow court today.

Lawyer Genrikh Padva told reporters that the conviction on tax and fraud charges was politically motivated.

Yukos founder Khodorkovskii said the result of his trial was a "monument" to injustice and accused the Kremlin of ordering his conviction.

The Verdicts

Moscow's Meshchanskii Raion Court sentenced Khodorkovskii and a partner, Menatep Chairman Platon Lebedev, to nine years in prison each today after convicting them of tax evasion and embezzlement.

The sentence came after the court completed the 12-day process of reading the more than 1,000-page verdict.

Fellow defendant and former Volna General Director Andrei Krainov was given a five-year suspended sentence for embezzlement.

When the judge asked Khodorkovskii if he understood the verdict, Khodorkovskii responded: "The verdict is clear. A monument to Basmannyi justice has been erected," RIA-Novosti reported. "Basmannyi justice" is a term that Khodorkovskii's supporters have used to describe the Kremlin's purported manipulation of the courts and refers to Moscow's Basmannyi Raion Court, which is considered the most Kremlin-friendly court in Russia.

In response to the same question, Lebedev said: "No normal person could understand this verdict."

Nataliya Vishnyakova, a spokeswoman for the Prosecutor-General's Office, told RIA-Novosti on 31 May that the sentences of Khodorkovskii and Lebedev "are commensurate with the crimes the defendants committed."

One Of Many?

Our Choice head Irina Khakamada told RosBalt that the verdict is "aggressive and unjust."

"This court decision is intended to frighten everyone and to show who is in charge here," Khakamada said. "We have been convinced that defense is useless. A term of 10 years was announced long before the trial began. The authorities have demonstrated that they are sweeping away democratic institutions and do not want to legitimize property."

Khakamada added that the same charges that Khodorkovskii faced could easily be filed against an enormous number of businesspeople and against the "bureaucrats who wrote the laws." She said that Khordorkovskii was persecuted for his independent, uncompromising stance. "Probably he had the chance to sign some sort of document and escape prison, but he did not do that," she said.

Yukos released a statement on 31 May saying the verdict is "a monstrous perversion of justice that has been committed by the judicial system."

Apatit Charges Dismissed

The Meshchanskii Raion Court dismissed all charges related to the 1994 privatization of a 20-percent stake in the Apatit fertilizer plant, ruling that the 10-year statute of limitations had expired. The court also advised the government to file civil cases against Khodorkovskii and Lebedev to collect their tax arrears.

Before his arrest in October 2003, Khodorkovskii was the richest person in Russia, with a personal fortune estimated at $15 billion.

The defendants have 10 days to appeal the verdict and sentences.

(with additional wire reports)

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