The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and business partner Platon Lebedev were denied their right to a fair trial in the case of their conviction by a Russian court for embezzlement and money laundering.
The Strasbourg-based court said on January 14 that it did not find any political motives in the criminal prosecution of Lebedev or Khodorkovsky, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's main opponents, and that no compensation would be ordered.
Khodorkovsky, who ran oil giant Yukos, once Russia's largest company, was convicted of financial crimes at two trials that he and his supporters contend were engineered by the Kremlin to punish him for challenges to President Vladimir Putin and increase the Kremlin's control over oil export revenues.
"The court considers that the finding of a violation constitutes in itself sufficient just satisfaction for the nonpecuniary damage sustained by the applicants," the ECHR said in its judgment.
Khodorkovsky welcomed the ruling in a statement on Facebook.
"Today, an important conclusion was drawn on the international criminal law assessment of the 'Yukos case,'" Khodorkovsky wrote.
"Following six consecutive decisions by the ECHR on all aspects of the process, it has now been recognized that the Russian authorities’ actions against me and my colleagues were not a 'fair trial.'”
Vadim Klyuvgant, a lawyer for Khodorkovsky, was quoted by Interfax as saying the defense was "satisfied" with the outcome, though in light of the ruling Khodorkovsky may appeal to the Russian Supreme Court over his second sentence.
"The defense was discriminated against and denied the possibility to bring in its witnesses and specialists during the proceedings, Klyuvgant said.
"I think these conclusions are sufficient for agreeing with us that the sentence was fictitious," he added.
Yukos was dismantled after Khodokovsky's 2003 arrest and its main production assets were sold at auction and ended up in the hands of state oil company Rosneft.
Once Russia's richest man, Khodorkovsky spent 10 years in prison before he was released and left Russia after being pardoned by Putin in 2013.
Khodorkovsky lives in exile in London and now runs a project called the Civil Society Support Group in Russia. The endeavor is part of Khodorkovsky's effort to unseat Putin from power.