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On Wednesday, the Velsky District Court in the Arkhangelsk Region commuted the term in prison for the YUKOS co-owner Platon Lebedev by three years and four months. A more lenient article for money laundering under the Criminal Code caused the commuted sentence. Now Lebedev can be released from prison already in March 2013. If the court follows the logic, Mikhail Khodorkovsky should be released after him.
The Kommersant daily recalled that Platon Lebedev and his lawyers filed the appeal for a commuted term in prison in the Velsky District Court last July. The presidential amendments in Article 174 of the Criminal Code that reduced sharply the term in prison for money laundering caused the commuted sentence for Lebedev. The prosecutor supported this appeal, but proposed to commute the sentence to Lebedev by a year and nine months. The lawyer asked to commute the sentence to Lebedev by the term in prison that he had already served. The court satisfied the appeal partially, commuting the total term in prison for Platon Lebedev to nine years and eight months.
Platon Lebedev “is always satisfied with what had been achieved.” The lawyers intend to appeal the verdict, insisting on the immediate release of their client.
The reaction to the Wednesday court verdict from Khodorkovsky’s lawyers was restrained, the newspaper noted. “Let’s wait until this verdict enters in legal force,” a lawyer said. “I do not rule out that the verdict will be appealed and cancelled,” he said. On Wednesday, Khodorkovsky’s lawyers failed to explain why they had not filed this appeal yet.
The Moskovsky Komsomolets daily recalled that at the end of 2010 the Khamovniki District Court of Moscow sentenced Khodorkovsky and Lebedev to 14 years in prison under the accusations against each of them of misappropriating 200 million tons of oil and money laundering. With due account of the verdict passed in 2005 under the first criminal case, when they were sentenced to eight years in prison, and the term in prison that they had already served their term of imprisonment was to expire in 2017. However, on May 24, 2011, the Moscow City Court commuted their sentence by one year.
If the prosecutor’s office, which demanded a less radical commuted term in prison, will not challenge the verdict of the Velsky District Court within ten days, the verdict will enter in legal force. According to Lebedev’s lawyers, he can be released on March 2, 2013, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily noted.
The verdict of the Velsky District Court sounds unexpected, before the cassation instance of the same court did not rule a release on parole for Lebedev. Meanwhile, lawyer Vadim Klyuvgant told the newspaper that if guided by the law, the review of the terms in prison was to take place long ago, “By the way, it was done at the initiative of the prosecutor’s office, rather than the lawyers. Therefore, the prosecutor’s office is an agency, which on behalf of the state is empowered to ensure lawfulness and supervise how it is observed. If guided by the law, the same actions were to be taken for Mikhail Khodorkovsky.”
The experts noted that the court verdict reflects the intentions of the authorities to change a tough policy towards the political opposition, rather than some changes in the domestic legal system as a result of the Medvedev-initiated reforms, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily reported. The Russian authorities intend to convince the European Court of Human Rights that they are ready to heed the voice of the world community ahead of trying the appeals from the lawyers of the former YUKOS chief executives.