Russian President Orders Review of Khodorkovsky Case

Posted March 5th, 2012 at 6:30 pm (UTC-5)
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Russia's outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev Monday ordered the prosecutor-general to re-examine the legality of 32 criminal cases, including the jailing of former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev.

Mr. Medvedev also called on the Justice Ministry to explain why it refused to register the People's Freedom Party, a group led by some of the opposition's most prominent figures.

The requests follow a meeting last month during which opposition leaders presented the president with a list of 32 people they regard as political prisoners.

An activist with the Russian human rights organization, Moscow Helsinki Group, described the orders as an empty gesture.

“This is a kind of political game — and I don't know anything about political games, I'm not a politician, but what is clear to me is that this is a gesture aimed at credulous fools.”

Analysts say Mr. Medvedev's move might be intended to defuse the protests.

Khodorkovsky, who headed what was Russia's biggest oil company, Yukos, and was once the country's richest man, was arrested in 2003 and convicted on charges of fraud and tax evasion. He was sentenced to stay in jail until 2016.

Khodorkovsky and his backers say all the charges against him are politically motivated because he supports politicians opposed to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who won Sunday's presidential election for a record third term.

Vladimir Pereverzin, Yukos' former finance director, said there is no choice but to release his former boss, and the government is trying to find a pretext to do so. Pereverzin spent seven years in jail, and was released three weeks ago.

When asked how Moscow had changed while he was in prison, he said, “Smartphones, people reading electronic books on the subway, and thousands of people gathering to demonstrate for democracy.”