October 24, 2008
Fifth Anniversary of the Arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovskiy
October 25 marks the fifth anniversary of the arrest of Russian oil executive Mikhail Khodorkovskiy; his case (and those of his former associates) continues to raise serious questions about the application of the rule of law and the legal system in Russia. Khodorkovskiy requested parole in July, but his request was denied on October 16 after prosecutors argued he failed to “actively” show remorse. Released on October 24, 2008
Khodorkovskiy’s former lawyer, Svetlana Bakhmina, also appealed for clemency and early release from prison on October 20 on the grounds that she is eight months pregnant. Despite widespread support for her release, her appeal was denied because she has “not shown improvements in her behavior.”
Even more troubling, on October 21 a Russian court extended until January 2009 the term of detention of Vasiliy Aleksanyan, former Vice-President of Khodorkovskiy’s Yukos oil company. Aleksanyan, whose detention was set to expire on October 22, is terminally ill with HIV and cancer. He is accused of embezzlement and fraud, yet has never been formally charged with a crime. Human rights lawyer Karina Moskalenko, active in the case of Khodorkovskiy, as well as cases involving human rights abuses in Chechnya, and the murder two years ago of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, has also faced attempts at intimidation and harassment. We are awaiting the results of a French police investigation into reports of mercury found in her car.
The conduct of the cases against Khodorkovskiy and his associates has eroded Russia’s reputation and public confidence in Russian legal and judicial institutions. We urge Russia to grant all involved fair and just hearings, based on due process and proper application of rule of law, critical to the economic growth and reputation of a strong nation.