Russia’s Khodorkovsky wins rare victory, lawyers cautious
ailed former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky won a rare legal victory on Tuesday when one of Russias most senior judges ordered a court to review his appeal against his conviction on multibillion-dollar theft and money laundering charges.
Lawyers for Khodorkovsky were cautious about the ruling and said it was still unclear whether it was a technicality or a real advance that could lead to a reversal of his conviction.
Khodorkovsky, once Russias richest man, fell out with Vladimir Putins Kremlin and is serving a 13-year prison term near the Arctic Circle.
He was jailed in 2003 and is due for release in 2016 after two politically charged trials brought convictions on financial crimes charges linked to his now-defunct oil company, Yukos.
He and his former business partner Platon Lebedev appealed against their December 2010 convictions in the second trial, but the Moscow City Court rejected that appeal last year and a Supreme Court judge upheld that decision.
The chairman of Russias Supreme Court On Tuesday overruled that rejection and sent the appeal back to the Moscow court, said Supreme Court spokesman Pavel Odintsov.
Khodorkovskys lawyers said they needed to know more details about Supreme Court chairman Vyacheslav Lebedevs decision.
"Up until now all courts and judges in this case have issued only shameful and illegal decisions made by others, " his legal team said on the website khodorkovsky.ru, suggesting court decisions have been handed down from the Kremlin. "We have no illusions. We will see what comes."
Putin has repeatedly criticized Khodorkovsky, suggesting he was behind murders and that the sentence is lenient. Many rights activists believe it is highly unlikely he will be freed before 2016.
One of Khodorkovskys lawyers, Yuri Shmidt, said the judges decision could have applied to only part of the Moscow courts ruling or could involve technicalities that would not affect the conviction itself.
"This decision alone tells us nothing, " said the lawyer who led Khodorkovskys defense in the second trial, Vadim Klyuvgant, according to the Interfax news agency.
Odintsov declined to comment on details or potential consequences.
Supporters say Khodorkovsky, 49, was prosecuted in a Kremlin-orchestrated campaign to punish him for challenging Putin, then in his first stint as president. They say it was also aimed to warn tycoons against involvement in politics and increase state control over lucrative oil revenues.
After his arrest and jailing, Yukos was bankrupted by back tax claims and auctioned off with its main production assets ending up in the hands of state-run Rosneft, now Russias biggest producer and headed by close Putin ally Igor Sechin.