Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is concerned about the verdict handed down in the trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev. Today (30 December) he issued the following statement in this connection:
“This second conviction of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev brings to a regrettable end a trial that at every stage has given rise to a host of doubts. The circumstances of the trial shed a critical light on how the rule of law in Russia and the country’s modernization agenda are developing. It is in Russia’s own interest to take seriously the concerns voiced by international public opinion regarding the outcome and conduct of the trial.”
In March 2009 Khordorkovsky and his business partner Lebedev were put on trial for a second time, charged with embezzling and laundering oil revenues. The public prosecutor demanded a 14-year prison term for the defendants, to be reduced by the eight-year term handed down during their first trial. In sentencing the defendants the judge by and large followed the line taken by the prosecution. This means Khordorkovsky and Lebedev are likely to remain in detention until 2017. The verdict is not yet final; counsel for the defence have announced that they plan to appeal.
During his visit to Moscow on 1 November Federal Minister Westerwelle had raised the issue of the 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.