Russia's top court to hear Khodorkovsky's appeal

Russia's highest court to hear appeal by jailed oil tycoon Khodorkovsky and his partner

Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia's highest court on Wednesday set a date for hearing appeals by jailed former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner.

Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev were arrested in 2003 and convicted in 2005 of evading taxes on the Yukos oil company. The case was widely seen as political punishment of Khodorkovsky, then Russia's richest man, for challenging the power of Vladimir Putin early in his presidency.

The two were tried together again in a second case and convicted in 2010 of stealing oil from Yukos and laundering the proceeds. Last December, the Moscow City Court reduced their prison sentence from 13 years to 11 years, meaning they will be released in 2014.

Lawyers for Khodorkovsky and Lebedev appealed the 2010 convictions and subsequent related court rulings to Russia's Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruled to set the appeals hearing on Aug. 6. It noted that while the Moscow City Court reviewed and reduced the amount of money stolen, it failed to consider further reducing their sentence. "It can't be seen as well-founded," the court said in its decision, posted on the website of Khodorkovsky's lawyers and supporters.

Khodorkovsky's lawyer Vadim Klyuvgant expressed regret, however, that the court failed to heed defense arguments that the conviction of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev was unlawful and should be overturned. The lawyer also voiced dismay about a delay in setting the appeals hearings, which he argued should be held within a month of Wednesday's ruling.

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