Khodorkovsky Conviction Should Be Quashed, Kremlin Body Says

Dec. 21 (Bloomberg) -- President Dmitry Medvedev’s human rights council urged overturning jailed former Yukos Oil Co. owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s second conviction, criticizing it for a number of legal violations.

Khodorkovsky, Russia’s richest man when he was arrested on the tarmac of a Siberian airport in 2003, was convicted of fraud and tax evasion in 2005 and again in December 2010 on related charges, in what he calls a politically motivated campaign. He’s serving a 13-year sentence.

The businessman’s latest conviction contravenes Russian law by punishing him for the same crime that he was found guilty of in 2005, the council said today on its website. The oil embezzlement charges at the center of his second trial also relate to legally valid oil-sale contracts, the council added.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said last week that if he is re-elected as president next March he would consider a request by Khodorkovsky for a presidential pardon that implies admitting his guilt. Putin, who was president from 2000 to 2008 before Medvedev replaced him, has said Khodorkovsky has blood on his hands and “thieves should sit in jail.”

The council’s recommendation probably won’t lead to Khodorkovsky’s release, said Alexei Mukhin, head of the Moscow-based Center for Political Information.

“This council has little weight,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s a consultative body that can only advise the president that it supports a certain course of action.”

The human rights council called in July for an amnesty for economic crimes that would apply to Khodorkovsky, whose company was dismantled and sold at auction to cover more than $30 billion in back-tax claims.

It urged the Investigative Committee today to review the criminal case against Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev, who was convicted of the same offenses, pointing to “fundamental violations” that led to a “legal travesty.”

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