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Human Rights Defenders Issue Statement on Anniversary of Arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Source: (info), 26/10/11

Human rights defenders have published an open statement on the anniversary of the arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former head of the Yukos oil company. In the statement, Khodorkovsky’s supporters call the verdicts handed down to both Khodorovsky and Platon Lebedev, former head of Menatep, ‘unjust’, and state that the removal from office of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is ‘one of the main changes that our country needs’.

The text of the statement was published on 25 October on the website, writes Maria Muromskaya, correspondent for

The authors of the statement write that these verdicts “clearly showed that no one in Russia today can be certain of their liberty” and “erased the hopes of millions of citizens for the establishment of the rule of law and justice”.

The human rights defenders accused President Dmitry Medvedev of “shamefully not wanting to pardon the two best-known political prisoners in Russia”. They believe that the arrest of the businessmen is “an example of open repressions by Vladimir Putin against his political opponents”.

The signatories also expressed their conviction that Khodorkovsky and Lebedev will only be released “when the people of Russia, by lawful means, remove Vladimir Putin from power”.

Thirty people have signed the statement. Among them are Nina Katerli, writer, human rights defender and member of the Yabloko party; Boris Vishnevsky, columnist with Novaya gazeta; historian Sergei Beletsky; Boris Firsov, honorary president of the European University of St. Petersburg; journalist Andrei Piontkovsky; Vladimir Kostiushev, professor of the Higher School of Economics; Valery Nechai, journalist with Echo of St. Petersburg radio station; the celebrated actress Natalya Fateeva; and others.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested on 25 October 2003 at Novosibirsk’s Tolmachevo airport. The same day he was charged with embezzlement, tax evasion, forging documents and other crimes. In 2005 Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were each sentenced to 8 years in a penal colony. The same year a new investigation was begun, as a result of which Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were charged with stealing oil and money laundering. In May 2011 they were convicted of these charges and sentenced. Khodorkovsky and Lebedev have now each been sentenced to a total of 14 years in prison.