Judge denies parole request for Platon Lebedev
Responding to the decision of the Velsk district court to reject Platon Lebedev’s parole application, the legal team for Lebedev’s business partner, Mikhail Khodorkovsky stated: "Today’s decision to reject Platon Lebedev’s request for parole is a travesty. It has been over eight years since his arrest in July 2003 and Lebedev is being held hostage to the political battle that broke out between the Kremlin and his business partner Mikhail Khodorkovsky. We, of course, wish that he was today returning home to be reunited with his friends and family after all this time apart and Judge Raspopov’s decision is deeply disappointing".
Lebedev’s lawyer, Elena Liptser, opened proceedings yesterday by reminding the court that Lebedev has been eligible for parole since January 2nd 2010 and stating that she would be calling to the stand a number of witnesses to demonstrate Platon Lebedev’s good character. After hearing from Lebedev’s wife, Maria Cheplygina, the court was brought almost to tears as a letter from Lebedev’s 9-year old daughter was read aloud. In her letter she pleaded with Judge Raspopov, "mama says that you think papa needs to be reformed. But he was already the very best anyway. There’s no need for him to change." Saying it would make her "happier than anybody else in the world, " she asked that he let both Lebedev and Khodorkovsky "go home".
The court then heard from actress Natalia Fateyeva, the Chief Editor of Novaya Gazeta, Dmitry Muratov and Lebedev’s twin brother Viktor, who all expressed their respect and admiration for Platon. Citing the ‘person of the year’ award that Lebedev was awarded by the readers of Novaya Gazeta last year, Muratov addressed a question about Lebedev’s future employment, stating he would employ Lebedev as the newspaper’s Economic Observer and showed Judge Raspopov photographs of Platon’s future workplace, the brass nameplate from his future office and even his future business cards. A statement from the Yabloko party was also submitted to the Judge, signed by over one thousand local residents of Velsk in support of Lebedev’s release.
In response, the prosecution called a representative of the Velsk colony where Platon is currently being held, who stated that Lebedev had been issued 20 reprimands over the past eight years, two of which were still outstanding (for the loss of part of a prison-issued uniform and for addressing an employee of the colony impolitely). The representative later conceded that no reprimand had been issued for the loss of the uniform and reduced the number of outstanding reprimands to just one as Lebedev’s lawyer, Konstantin Rivkin asked if he "sincerely considered" that all of the positive character references he had heard were cancelled out by "the fact that [Lebedev] gave a cellmate a smoke, gave a comrade a bite to eat or, excuse me, lost some trousers."
As the proceedings drew to a close, Lebedev highlighted just three points; that it was unacceptable in 2011 for political prisoners to exist in Russia, that he was in desperate need of medical treatment and that he had been deprived of being a husband, father and grandfather for longer than the two World Wars combined.
Khodorkovsky submitted his application for parole two months ago and it was just last week returned to the Segezha colony where he is being held. His legal team are now considering what action to take.