European Court Says Officials Might Have Had ‘Hidden Agenda’ against Khodorkovsky

July 25, 2013

European Court of Human Rights: First Trial of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev found to be unfair

Judgment Reveals Grave Violations

Khodorkovsky’s lawyer: “The Conviction must be quashed”

The Court did NOT exclude political motivation and conceded that Russian “officials might have had a ‘hidden agenda’”

Following the European Court of Human Rights judgment earlier today, that the first trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev from 2004 to 2005 was riddled with violations and was unfair, Khodorkovsky’s lawyer, Karinna Moskalenko stated: “The Court’s finding is of huge significance: Khodorkovsky and Lebedev did not receive a fair trial.” She further stated: “The judgment that the trial was not fair – and the fact that Khodorkovsky and Lebedev served eight years in prison on the basis of an unfair trial – necessitates the release of both men without further delay.”

She said that to interpret the judgment as concluding that there was no political motivation was entirely wrong. The Court said that it did “Not exclude that in the proceedings against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, some of the authorities or State officials might have had a ‘hidden agenda’”. This echoed the Court’s May 2011 finding that the 2003 arrest and subsequent detention of Khodorkovsky, through 2005, raised suspicions of political motivations.

The Court further stated that: “it is clear that the authorities were trying to reduce political influence of ‘oligarchs’, that business projects of Yukos ran counter to the petroleum policy of the State, and that the State was one of the main beneficiaries of the dismantlement of Yukos.”

Ms Moskalenko noted that the Court concluded it is “prepared to admit that some political groups or government officials had their own reasons to push for the applicants’ prosecution.” The Court also emphasized that its view did not undermine all of the other international judgments that had concluded that the prosecution of Khodorkovsky was politically motivated. In 2011 Amnesty International designated Khodorkovsky and Lebedev as Prisoners of Conscience.

On this aspect of the judgment, Moskalenko stated:

“The Court accepted that it is reasonable to suspect that there was a political motivation in prosecuting Khodorkovsky, but it took the position that Khodorkovsky did not provide ‘incontrovertible and direct proof’ of what the overwhelming majority of experts believe, that, of course, this was a political persecution.The standard of proof the Court requires on Article 18 rulings is inordinately high – it hardly ever rules positively on them.”

Ms Moskalenko also noted that the Court had roundly condemned the award of damages to the Tax Authorities as being “arbitrary”.  The Court said “All these elements speak in favour of the applicant’s assertion that the decision of the Meshchanskiy District Court, in so far as it concerned ‘civil claims’, had no support either in the law or in judicial practice.”

The Court was also highly critical of the harassment of Khodorkovsky’s lawyers and concuded that there had been a breach of Article 34 because of “intimidating” his lawyers.

Ms Moskalenko confirmed that Mr Khodorkovsky had made a deliberately modest request for damages, which was awarded in full by the Court. His concern was not money but his human rights. The compensation will be awarded to charity.

Meanwhile, the Senior Minister of State of the British Foreign Office, Baroness Warsi, addressed several relevant issues during a debate in the House of Lords on the Khodorkovsky case this week. Baroness Warsi stated that:

“The case has highlighted serious flaws in the Russian judicial process.”

Commenting on the European Court’s ruling on a prior application from Khodorkovsky, Baroness Warsi added:

“While it ruled that there was no direct proof that the prosecution was politically motivated, the court recognised that the weight of evidence presented by Mr Khodorkovsky’s lawyers would be sufficient to satisfy even the most assiduous of domestic European courts, and that they would refuse extradition, deny legal assistance and issue injunctions against the Russian Government on this evidence. As the Government have intimated on numerous occasions, we, like this House, continue to have serious concerns about the application of the law in Russia.”