The European Court of Human Rights has rejected Mikhael Khodorkovsky’s petition asking the court to find that his first arrest in 2003 and subsequent trial for tax evasion and fraud were politically motivated. The court said that while the charges could be read with “considerable suspicion,” Khodorkovsky’s defense did not present “incontestable proof” that the charges were politically motivated.
However, the court said that Khodorkovsky’s human rights were violated during his arrest and detention, noting the cell’s cramped and unclean space and his arrest being based on the fact that he had not appeared as a witness when, in fact, hours after his arrest the more serious tax evasion and fraud charges were brought against him.
Khodorkovsky’s lawyers say that they are satisfied with the decision but have not yet decided whether to appeal. They noted that new evidence showing the political motivation of the arrest and trial has appeared since the case was argued before the court.
The decision is a blow to Khodorkovsky’s stance as a political victim of the Russian government, however at the time of the trial some analysts said that Khodorkovsky may have used loopholes to reduce taxes, but that the loopholes were in general use at that time.
What is clearer is that Khodorkovsky’s second trial for stealing money from his corporation was politically motivated. His lawyers are preparing a case related to the second trial.
Khodorkovsky is seeking early release because he has already spent half of his 13-year sentence in prison. Russian President Medvedev says Khodorkovsky would present no threat if released. Prime Minister Putin has said that Khodorkovsky's hands are covered with blood up to his elbows.
What happens next? Stay tuned.