Human rights defenders declare figures in YUKOS case victims of political repression


Russian human rights defenders have declared Mikhail Khodorkovsky and all those involved in the YUKOS case victims of political repression. A statement to this effect was made on the radio station “Echo Moskvy” by the Chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group Ludmila Alexeeva.

She announced that from now on Russian human rights defenders would themselves determine which Russian prisoners are victims of political repression.

Previously the status “prisoner of conscience” and “political prisoner” was defined by the human rights organization Amnesty International, Alexeeva explained. However at the present time this organization “does not understand the specific situation in our country”.

In Amnesty International were told that the organization does not object to the decision the human rights defenders have made as regards figures in the YUKOS case. Earlier AI had refused to recognize Khodorkovsky as a political prisoner. The well-known human rights defender Yelena Bonner connected this with the aspiration of the head of the organization to become UN Secretary General.

Amnesty International has stated that the arrest and prosecution of Khodorkovsky and other people linked with YUKOS are of a political nature. Representatives of the organization have sent letters to the Russian Ministry of Justice and Prosecutor General expressing concern over a number of issues connected with the arrest, prosecution and imprisonment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Platon Lebedev, Alexei Pichugin, and YUKOS lawyers Svetlana Bakhmina and Yelena Agranovskaya.

At the beginning of February this year the head of the committee on foreign affairs of the Lower House of the US Congress Tom Lantos called for ex-head of YUKOS Khodorkovsky to be declared a political prisoner. He said that he was imprisoned not over crimes committed but for his political activity which threatened the totalitarian aspirations of the Putin regime.

The last Russian nationals recognized as AI “Prisoners of Conscience” were the Omsk human rights defender Yury Shchadrin, the leader of the movement “For Human Rights” Lev Ponomaryov, as well as the naval officers and environmentalists Alexandr Nikitin and Grigory Pasko. The scientist Igor Sutyagin, imprisoned for 15 years on a charge of spying has been declared a political prisoner.

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