News24

'No proof' Khodorkovsky political prisoner

2011-05-31 22:30

Strasbourg - Europe's human rights court ruled on Tuesday that Russia violated the rights of former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky during his arrest and jailing, but found no firm proof the case was politically motivated.

The European Court of Human Rights ordered Moscow to pay him €24 500 in compensation for violations linked to his 2003 arrest and jailing on charges of fraud and tax evasion after he fell out with then-president Vladimir Putin.

The ruling fell short of what Khodorkovsky sought - vindication of his stance that he is political prisoner - but his lawyers hailed it as a victory anyway and said he had no plans to appeal.

Khodorkovsky, 47, built up a fortune after the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991 as head of oil firm Yukos, but ran afoul of Putin after airing corruption allegations, challenging state control over oil exports and funding opposition parties.

Many Western governments and business leaders say his case raises doubts about Russia's commitment to the rule of law. The United States said last week such selective application of the law would hold back Russian economic growth.

"I am disappointed in the European Court," prominent Russian rights worker Lyudmila Alexeyeva told the Interfax news agency.

But other activists said the decision was an important step and the first in a series of pending cases with the Strasbourg-based court toward redressing Khodorkovsky's grievances.

Lawyer Lord David Pannick said the European court ruling "was a major victory for the claimant and a major defeat for the government whether or not the court attributes - as it very rarely does - a bad faith motive to that government".

The Strasbourg-based court ruled: "Khodorkovsky's case might raise some suspicion as to what the real intent of the Russian authorities might have been for prosecuting him, [but] claims of political motivation behind prosecution required incontestable proof, which had not been presented."

Russia's representative in the European court, Georgy Matyushkin, told Interfax that Moscow would appeal against the ruling in three months if it found reason to do so.