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Call For Probe Into Claims Of Pressure On Khodorkovsky Judge

Mikhail Khodorkovsky was sentenced to six more years in prison in December.
MOSCOW -- Russia's leading human rights defenders are urging the prosecutor-general to fully investigate claims by a court employee that a judge was pressured into convicting former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky on fresh fraud charges, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

The call came in a petition sent today to Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika.

In December, judge Viktor Danilkin found Khodorkovsky guilty of stealing billions of dollars of oil from his own company and laundering the proceeds. The judge extended Khodorkovsky's prison term, which was due to end this year, through 2017.

Natalya Vasilyeva, an assistant to Danilkin, said in an interview published on February 14 that high officials had pressured the judge into delivering the verdict. Danilkin denies Vasilyeva's allegations.

Among those who signed the petition calling for an investigation into Vasilyeva's claims are Lyudmila Alekseyeva, the chairwoman of the Moscow Helsinki Group; Lev Ponomarev, the leader of the For Human Rights movement, and Oleg Orlov, head of the Memorial Human Rights Center.

Read more in Russian here