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Moscow To Strip Credentials From Khodorkovskii Lawyers

Khodorkovskii after his conviction was upheld (file photo) Moscow, 23 September 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Russia's Prosecutor-General has requested that the Justice Ministry strip eight attorneys of jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovskii of their lawyer status.

Natalia Vishnyakova, spokeswoman for the Prosecutor-General's Office, said their credentials will be lifted because they refused to defend Khodorkovskii without the chief defense attorney, Genrikh Padva, being present. Padva was ill at the time.

"In its letter [to the Justice Ministry] the Prosecutor-General's Office cites concrete facts, essentially, of obstruction of justice [by Khodorkovskii's lawyers]. The law forbids lawyers from refusing to carrying out their direct responsibilities."

She said the Prosecutor-General's demand excludes Padva. Earlier, authorities annulled the visa of Canadian national Robert Amsterdam -- another of Khodorkovskii's lawyers -- and ordered him to leave the country within 24 hours.

Khodorkovskii will officially start serving his prison sentence within 10 days. A Moscow appeals court yesterday upheld Khodorkovskii's fraud conviction but shortened his nine-year jail sentence to eight years.

(RFE/RL's Russian Service, Interfax, ITAR-TASS, AFP, Reuters)