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ECHR does not see politics in YUKOS case

July 26, 2013, 11:04 UTC+3

At the same time, the Court agreed that the authorities interfered into Khodorkovsky's and Lebedev's private and family lives

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On Thursday, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) published its decision on the case Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev vs Russia. The ECHR has not found any political component in the prosecution of the oligarchs under YUKOS’s first criminal case, though confirmed their rights had been violated during the investigation, trial and serving the sentence. Now it depends on Chairman of the Supreme Court Vyacheslav Lebedev, whether the verdict would be revoked fully, or the case should be investigated once again, or the mistakes made earlier may be corrected without the above.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev filed complaints to ECtHR in 2006 and in 2005 respectively, and later on their cases were merged, the Kommersant reports. The complaints were that rights of the both applicants had been violated from the time of their arrests in 2003 in the Meshchansky district court, which verdict to both of them was nine-year terms for embezzlement and tax evasion, and also over the verdict’s execution.

ECHR found as proved the accusation of tax evasion both regarding the company and the persons involved. At the same time, the Court agreed with the applicants that the authorities by having sent them to the penitentiaries far from the crimes’ places interfered into their private and family lives, as the decision prevented them from seeing the relatives.

The applicants said their criminal case had been politically motivated. ECHR agreed certain aspects of the arrests and sentences pointed indirectly to existence of political motivations in the case, but still came to the conclusion that none of accusations against Khodorkovsky or Lebedev referred to their political activities. Even if the case did have improper motives, the fact could not assure to the applicants’ immunity from criminal proceedings and could not make the entire criminal proceedings non-legitimate, like Khodorkovsky and Lebedev claimed, the Kommersant writes.

The ECHR’s verdict is 10,000 euros of non-pecuniary damage is to be paid to Khodorkovsky. Lebedev had requested for a monetary compensation of his missed revenues of 6.8 million euros, but the court refused the application.

“We are satisfied with the decision ECHR made,” the Kommersant quotes Andrei Fedorov, Russia’s envoy to Strasbourg, as saying. The most important fact, he said, is that “ECHR, like previously, refused to recognise political motives in the case.”

In compliance with Russia’s Code of Criminal Procedure, upon receiving a decision from ECHR, Chairman of the Supreme Court Vyacheslav Lebedev should resume criminal proceedings due to new conditions revealed. Later on, he will present a document to the Supreme Court’s presidium, which will decide how the breaches, revealed by Europe, should be corrected.

Russia has three months to argue the decision the ECHR made, the RBC Daily writes. Press service of the Ministry of Justice announced that the decision, whether it would be done, is not made yet. Platon Lebedev’s Lawyer Elena Liptser does not rule out it would be done on purpose so that the decision is argued on the last possible day. As it comes into force, the first case’s verdict should be revoked and date of new court hearings should be announced.

“I consider it an unfair and coward decision,” the Moskovsky Komsomolets quotes human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva as saying while commenting the verdict from the court in Strasbourg, “It is impossible not to see the political background in the case - only a blind may! The Europeans give in to our authorities. Usually, the European Court used to be courageous, but here, in my opinion, they have demonstrated recreancy.”

“Honestly speaking, the decision has not surprised me at all,” political analyst Vitaly Tretyakov told the Komsomolskaya Pravda. “It is evident, the reason to start criminal proceedings against Khodorkovsky was his active involvement in the politics. It is also doubtless he was sentenced for pure economic reasons. Wellbeing of the kind cannot be made honestly over three years. The process would require a century - from the first dollar to the first million. I believe many other Russian oligarchs have similar skeletons in closets. It is only reasonable that Europe, which in the past started a fuss - the case was politically motivated, now looked into it and found pure economy there.”

The Vedomosti published an article with a sub-title “Mikhail Khodorkovsky will not be allowed to power.”

Addendums to the Criminal Code’s Article 86, which extend for two years cancellations of convictions for serious and very serious crimes, were published officially in the Rossiiskaya Gazeta on Thursday, as President Putin signed them a day earlier, the newspaper reports. The terms are extended from six to eight years, for very serious crimes - from eight to ten years.

Cancellation of conviction annuls all possible legal consequences, and the terms of the cancellations seem to be excessive, thus there are cases where people commit new crimes immediately after their previous conviction is cancelled, the bill’s explanatory document read.

The law is aimed at clearing state authorities of people with criminal records, and it refers directly, for example, to YUKOS’ former CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky: after a release he may become a person to be lobbied by the West, a source close to the presidential administration told the Vedomosti. The law is a guarantee against a case the Constitution Court annuls a life-term ban for participation in whatever election campaigns for those sentenced for serious and very serious crimes, the Vedomosti’s source close to United Russia’s officials said.

Since May of 2012, those convicted for serious and very serious crimes for a life term, are deprived of the passive election right, where the ban was introduced to the election legislation despite protests from the parliamentary opposition, which considered it to be an additional punishment, which does not comply with the Constitution. The Constitution Court only may lift the ban. A group of candidates, who had not been registered for regional elections due to earlier convictions, filed an application with the Constitution Court. The application has not been discussed as yet, and a due date has not been appointed. The Constitution Court has been on holidays, and the application may not be considered before September, the court’s representative told the Vedomosti.

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