Khodorkovsky sure that Danilkin didn’t write the verdict
While Mikhail Khodorkovsky has stated that he pities the judge who sentenced him, calling him broken by political pressure to deliver a guilty verdict, the court aide who publicly spoke out against the rigged result says she fears for her family
Russian Judge's Aide Says She Fears for Family
The Russian courthouse aide who this week went public with allegations that the trial of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky was rigged says she fears her family is being pursued by authorities.
Natalya Vasilieva, in her first interview with the foreign press since her revelations were released on two Russian websites Monday, said Friday that unidentified agents visited her in-laws this week asking for information about her whereabouts.
"I'm worried, but I'm still living at home, " she said in interviews in the Moscow offices of the nonprofit group that is providing her with legal advice.
Police deny that any investigation of her is under way and dismiss her allegations of pressure as a publicity stunt.
Ms. Vasilieva said she is surprised by the storm her revelations set off.
"What's happening now is not what I expected, " she said, noting that she didn't discuss her plans to go public with family or friends in advance. "I thought there would be a little news item and it would be kept quiet."
Her allegations have received no official public attention beyond immediate denials from court representatives. But on the Russian Internet and in opposition media, she has become a heroine. A popular actor's reading of a poem extolling her bravery has become a hit on Internet video sites.
An aide and press secretary to the judge in the Khodorkovsky case, Ms. Vasilieva said officials at the Moscow City Court rejected the verdict written by the presiding judge, Viktor Danilkin, and dictated another version. She said Judge Danilkin was under "total control" during the two-year trial.
Mr. Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev were convicted of fraud and money laundering. Each was sentenced to 13½ years in prison. Once Russia's richest man and owner of oil giant OAO Yukos, Mr. Khodorkovsky ran afoul of the Kremlin for his political ambitions and was jailed in 2003.
Authorities deny any political motivation for the prosecution, but a number of foreign courts have found to the contrary in related cases.
Defense lawyers say it isn't clear whether Ms. Vasilieva's allegations could be used in the appeal now under way to challenge the verdict. Neither prosecutors nor the defense team has contacted her, she said.
Ms. Vasilieva said she didn't have first-hand knowledge of how the verdict was written or the pressure on the judge, but could see signs of it in her daily work in the court. "Everyone knew it, but no one talked about it, " she said.
Through a court spokeswoman, Judge Danilkin has called her allegations "slander."
Ms. Vasilieva said she hadn't been in contact with him since warning him the morning the interview came out that she had spoken to the press.
Initially trained as a military cook, Ms. Vasilieva said she later went to law school and had hoped to work her way up to become a judge, a typical career path for judicial aides. But she said the "pressure" she saw Judge Danilkin subjected to left her disillusioned.
Her revelations have spawned a range of conspiracy theories, but she denies any ulterior motives. "I wanted people to know the truth, that you can't work as a judge and lie, " she said. "I wanted to defend the good name of Viktor Nikolaevich" Danilkin.
Gregory White, WSJ
Mikhail Khodorkovsky Pities 'Broken' Trial Judge
In an interview with weekly magazine Vlast, Mikhail Khodorkovsky said he pities the judge who sentenced him, calling him broken by political pressure to deliver a guilty verdict. Khodorkovsky said he believed Judge Viktor Danilkin had buckled under political pressure and said that he bore him no malice. He stated:
"You may not believe me, but I really am sorry for Danilkin. He does not seem such a bad person. He has some degree of conscience and is to some degree a professional. They broke him and broke him cruelly."
Khodorkovsky told Vlast that he also believes the judge did not write the verdict himself, saying its wording sounded as if it had not even been edited by a lawyer.
"I am convinced that Judge Danilkin did not write it himself. It is more like a record of a political reprisal."
Agence France Presse notes Khodorkovsky's lawyers previously said that Danilkin's verdict was a near copy of the prosecution's charges, and that he was acting on higher orders in delivering it.