By Maria Vesnovskaya
Russia’s Presidential Council on Human Rights has suggested reviewing the second case against the former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky since fundamental violations were committed during its investigation. Although the analysis conducted by the council is not a procedural document, it will have an impact on the case.
The former heads of Yukos Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev were arrested in 2003. Two years later, they were sentenced to 9 years behind bars on the charges of non-payment of taxes and fraud. The verdict on the second case was announced in December 2010. Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were found guilty of embezzlement and money laundering. However, at the time, people started talking about violations committed during the investigation, and President Dmitry Medvedev pledged to instruct the experts to study how the case was conducted.
The assessment was carried out by lawyers and human rights activists from several countries, Russia, the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands. On its basis, the council recommended that the investigative committee should review the case against Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev. The revealed violations might show that judicial mistakes were committed. Consequently, a new investigation might be launched, says Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s lawyer Yuri Shmidt.
Only the President enjoys the right to instruct the Prosecutor General’s office to conduct a retrial, says a member of the Presidential Council Igor Yurgens in an interview with the Voice of Russia.
“Only the Prosecutor General can lodge a motion to annul the verdict based on new circumstances and taking into account the opinion of experts. But this is of the President’s competency,” emphasized Igor Yurgens.
The head of the Presidential Council Mikhail Fedotov has already said that no one should think that the only thing that experts’ assessment says is that Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are not guilty. This would have been too primitive. However, he emphasized that the results of the assessment might pave the way for revising the verdict. Political scientist Pavel Salin partially agrees with the head of the Presidential Council with a reservation, but it will be very important how the society will respond to the experts’ assessment.
“At present, the authorities are trying to test public opinion concerning such an initiative. A month ago a reviewing of the case against Khodorkovsky was nonsense in out of scientific fiction, but at present, this is in principle really possible within one year or two,” Pavel Salin said.
Last week, during a question and answer session, Prime Minister Putin said he would study the possibility of pardoning Khodorkovsky if he became President. But only if Khodorkovsky appeals for a pardon.