WASHINGTON—The new conviction of Mikhail Khodorkovsky by a Russian court today has again highlighted the need for greater protections for human rights and rule of law in Russia, leaders of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) said.
“Today’s conviction shows Russia has missed an important opportunity to reverse course and demonstrate that the Russian leadership is serious about promoting free speech and human rights,” said U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Helsinki Commission. “Mr. Khodorkovsky remains a victim of a judicial system that has failed to put the rule of law before political whims.”
Nearly seven years after Khodorkovsky, once the head of Russia’s largest and most profitable oil company, was arrested during a speaking tour promoting civic participation, prosecutors brought new charges of money-laundering against him that could now leave him in a Siberian prison for 22 years.
“President Medvedev’s call for respect for the rule of law in Russia needs to be followed by concrete deeds,” Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) said. “Today’s conviction means Khodorkovsky will continue to be a political prisoner of the Kremlin and his case further taints Russia’s human rights record.”
At a recent hearing entitled “Legal Hooliganism – Is the Yukos show trial finally over?” Commissioners heard from Vadim Klyuvgant, Khodorkovsky’s lead defense attorney, who laid out a laundry list of procedural violations in his client’s case.
Khodorkovsky’s defense team has said the judge in this case has been “willfully blind to the many violations that have contaminated the process from the investigatory stage to the ongoing trial. Wrongly asserting that it is not within his purview to do so, the judge has failed to exercise his authority to cure even the most egregious flaws pointed out by the defense.”