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Jailed Russian Tycoon Khodorkovsky Declares Hunger Strike

Mikhail Khodorkovsky sits before a court session starts in Moscow court in April.
Imprisoned Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky says he has launched a hunger strike to draw attention to what he says are improper court rulings.

In an open letter to the chairman of Russia's supreme court published today, Khodorkovsky accuses Russian courts of ignoring recent legal changes that allow people charged with economic crimes to avoid pretrial detention.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky's lawyer, Yury Shmidt, said that he will remain on hunger strike until President Dmitry Medvedev -- who initiated the changes -- is informed of the situation.

"The only condition that Mikhail Khodorkovsky has put forward is that [Medvedev] be informed of this outrageous legal nihilism and failure to comply with the law, which not only makes Khodorkovsky's life worse -- that is of no crucial importance to him today -- but he believes this can establish an illegal practice that can affect a great number of people," Shmidt said.

Khodorkovsky's protest is largely symbolic as the former head of the now defunct Yukos company is serving an eight-year sentence for tax evasion and now faces additional prison time if convicted on charges of embezzlement.

He has been in prison since 2003. His supporters say his trial was politically motivated.

compiled from agency reports