Khodorkovsky son hopeful of father's release

2013-10-25 22:02
Mikhail Khodorkovsky (Picture: AP)

Mikhail Khodorkovsky (Picture: AP)

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Moscow - The family of Mikhail Khodorkovsky believes that the Russian businessman will get out of prison when his term expires next summer, despite reports that investigators are preparing a third case against him.

"I think that my father will be released in August 2014," his son Pavel told dpa in an interview.

Formerly Russia's richest man and a sharp critic of President Vladimir Putin, Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been behind bars since he was arrested on 25 October in 2003.

He was found guilty of tax evasion and fraud in a first trial in 2005 and of embezzlement in a second trial in 2010. His accumulated prison sentence has been reduced from 14 years to 11 years and cut by another two months, meaning that he would go free next August.

Pavel Khodorkovsky, 28, who has lived in the US for the past 10 years, said his father's imprisonment was political, noting that he had funded the Russian opposition before his arrest.

"It played into Putin's goal for sanitising the political landscape and cementing the foothold on political power," he said.

Putin was re-elected for a six-year term as President last year and has indicated that he might run again in 2018, meaning that he could remain head of state until 2024.

Pavel Khodorkovsky also argued that his father was in jail because he refused to play by Putin's rules unlike other Russian businessmen like Roman Abramovich, who have largely stayed outside politics.

"People have different standards. ... My father's standards were high and that is why he is in jail. Abramovich's standards were low, that is why he is free," he said.

The younger Khodorokovsky also argued that while his father could easily be kept in prison beyond 2014, there was no political will to do so.

Winter Olympics

He said the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi will bring a lot of public attention, while the Russian government was under pressure from new opposition figures.

"It could even be beneficial to them to release my father to keep things in balance," he said.

He added, however, that he doubts his father would be freed before the games next February, because Putin fears being perceived as weak. "Russian politicians do not abide by the same PR-logic as politicians in European countries," he said.

But many observers fear that the Russian Investigative Committee, a powerful agency that is leading the current nationwide crackdown against dissenters, is currently working on a third case against Khodorkovsky.

Over the last year, the Committee has conducted interrogations, raids and confiscations among a group of economic and legal experts who in 2011 wrote a report commissioned by the Kremlin's Human Rights Council that questioned the legality of Khodorkovsky's second trial.

In April, Sergei Guriev, a prominent Russian economist who contributed to the report, fled to Paris citing his fear for the safety of himself and his family after investigators searched his office and seized thousands of e-mails.

Law professor sought

This week, it became known that the investigators had sought to question German law professor Otto Luchterhandt, who was also a contributor.

However, the German government rejected the Russian request for legal assistance on 24 September , a Justice Ministry spokesperson said via e-mail.

(Two other foreign contributors, US law professor Jeffrey Kahn and Dutch legal scholar Ferdinand Feldbrugge told dpa that they had not yet been contacted by Russian authorities.)

Investigators have not made any public accusations, but their enquiries, some of which were widely reported by Russian media, suggest that they suspect the experts of having influenced the government and law enforcement authorities in Khodorkovsky's favour.

Pavel Khodorkovsky said that considering the "outrageous verdict" of the second trial, a third one could be about anything.

"If there is political will to keep him in prison, I'm sure there is going to be something invented," he said.

He added that he was optimistic that this would not happen before next August.

However, he suggested that once he is released, his father should leave Russia for safety reasons.

If he stayed in Moscow, "there is always the possibility for another trial against him", he said, adding that it might be difficult to convince him.

"Having spent so much time in jail out of principle, he probably would not want to leave Russia immediately," he said.

Khodorkovsky has repeatedly refused to ask for a presidential pardon, arguing that this would force him to admit guilt.

- SAPA

Read more on:    mikhail khodorkovsky  |  vladimir putin  |  russia
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