Monday, December 27, 2010

Imprisoned Russian Oil Tycoon Is Convicted Again

MOSCOW — A judge in Moscow on Monday handed down a new conviction against Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, the former oil tycoon, in a case that has been widely seen as an indicator of the Kremlin’s tolerance for political dissent. Mr. Khodorkovsky, who has already been imprisoned for seven years after feuding with Vladimir V. Putin, was found guilty on embezzlement charges that could keep him behind bars for several more years.

Formerly Russia’s richest man, Mr. Khodorkovsky, 47, is the country’s most well-known prisoner, and his treatment has been held up by opponents of the Kremlin as evidence that the justice system here is readily manipulated by those in power.

The judge did not immediately pass sentence, and it was unclear when he might do so. While a guilty verdict was expected, the length of the sentence will be scrutinized as a sign of whether the Kremlin wants to loosen or tighten control over the political system.

Mr. Putin, the former president and current prime minister, has often assailed Mr. Khodorkovsky as a criminal who ordered his associates to kill people so that he could amass wealth. Just this month, Mr. Putin referred to Mr. Khodorkovsky as a thief who should “sit in jail” — criticism that Mr. Khodorkovsky’s lawyers described as a blatant attempt to pressure the court.

A short prison sentence might be considered a victory for Mr. Putin’s protégé, President Dmitri A. Medvedev, a former law professor who is thought of as less of a hard-liner. Mr. Medvedev has been promoting policies to modernize Russia, and analysts say the Khodorkovsky case is an obstacle toward convincing foreign investors that the country’s legal system is fair
Read the rest here.

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