Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle today (27 December) issued the following statement on the verdict handed down by a Moscow court in the trial of Mikhail Khordorkovsky and Platon Lebedev:
“I am greatly concerned that Mikhail Khordorkovsky and Platon Lebedev have once again been found guilty. The circumstances of the trial were most unsatisfactory and a setback for the modernization to which the country aspires.
It is in the interest of our Russian partners to take these concerns seriously and firmly uphold the rule of law, democracy and human rights.”
Since March 2009 Khordorkovsky and his business partner Lebedev have been on trial again, this time charged with embezzling and laundering oil revenues. For Khordorkovsky the public prosecutor is demanding a 14-year prison term, to be reduced by the eight-year term handed down in his first trial. The reasons for the verdict and the details of the sentence will be announced in a few days.
During his visit to Moscow on 1 November Federal Minister Westerwelle had raised the issue of Khordorkovsky’s trial and expressed his grave concern in this connection. The German Government has been receiving detailed reports on the conduct of the trial from the German Embassy in Moscow as well as its Human Rights Commissioner Markus Löning and its Commissioner for Russia Andreas Schockenhoff, both of whom have attended the trial as observers. Members of all parliamentary groups in the Bundestag have also observed the trial.
Khordorkovsky was arrested on 25 October 2003 and in what has been criticized as a politically motivated trial was sentenced in May 2005 to an eight-year prison term for tax fraud. His company Yukos was broken up and many of its assets transferred to the state petroleum company Rosneft.