Russian oil tycoon Khodorkovsky found guilty in trial

The BBC's Daniel Sandford in Moscow explains what happened in court

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Former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been found guilty of embezzlement at his politically charged second trial in Moscow.

The judge said Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev were guilty of stealing from their firm Yukos and laundering the proceeds.

Khodorkovsky is already serving an eight-year sentence for fraud and tax evasion from his 2005 trial.

The US and Germany were highly critical of the verdict.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the trial raised "serious questions" about the rule of law in Russia and the verdict would have a "negative impact on Russia's reputation".

In court

The courtroom is tiny - less than 10m by 10m. Packed into it were Mikhail Khodorkovsky's ageing parents, a dozen lawyers, 30 or so members of the public, and more than 60 cameramen and photographers. Protesters chanting "Freedom!" outside in the cold could be heard through the double-glazed windows.

Perched on a public bench with Mikhail Khodorkovsky's mother, I watched him being brought in in handcuffs. His face was strained, but he managed a smile, and he was quickly put in the reinforced-glass dock along with his former business partner, Platon Lebedev.

Once a very successful businessman, he is now a symbol of hope for an opposition hopelessly overpowered by the Russian state and state-controlled media.

But the hope was soon dashed. Almost as soon as Judge Viktor Danilkin started reading his verdict, it became apparent that it was going to be guilty.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky has already served seven years of an eight-year sentence. Now his time in prison is likely to grow substantially when the sentence is passed. The judge has a few days left of reading his verdict before he comes to that.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he was "very worried" by the conviction.

"The way the trial has been conducted is extremely dubious and a step backward on the road toward a modernisation of the country," he said in a statement.

"It is in the interest of our Russian partners to take these concerns seriously and to stand up for the rule of law, democracy and human rights."

Richard Ottaway, chairman of the UK parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, said the "due process of law that we in the UK would recognise" had not been followed.

Khodorkovsky's lawyers say the verdict was the result of official pressure.

Khodorkovsky, 47, was due to be released next year, but the new convictions could see him jailed for much longer.

The two defendants were led into court in handcuffs by armed guards.

In the sealed glass dock Khodorkovsky - once Russia's richest man - waved at his parents, the small courtroom packed with journalists and cameras.

Several hundred demonstrators could be heard outside the courtroom, chanting "Freedom!" and "Put Putin [the Russian prime minister] in jail!"

Police made a number of arrests.

Russian policemen with a supporter of Mikhail Khodorkovsky Khodorkovsky's supporters were detained after calling for PM Putin to be put behind bars

Judge Viktor Danilkin read out the first few pages of the verdict before asking camera crews to leave the courtroom.

"The court has established that Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev committed embezzlement acting in collusion with a group of people and using their professional positions," Judge Danilkin said.

Delivering the full verdict and sentence is expected to take several days.

Start Quote

It is not a bad thing that Khodorkovsky is in jail. But it is a bad thing that others like him are not in jail”

End Quote Sergei M, St Petersburg

Khodorkovsky's lawyers have already said they will appeal.

'Sick state'

In the latest trial, Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are accused of stealing hundreds of millions of tonnes of oil from the now defunct Yukos oil company and laundering the proceeds, in the years 1998-2003.

He has denounced the charges as rubbish.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky Timeline

  • 1963 - Born in Moscow, son of chemical engineers
  • 1981 - Enters Medeleyev Chemistry Institute, Moscow
  • 1980s - Sets up computer software business with fellow students
  • 1987 - Founds Menatep bank
  • 1994 - Buys Apatit fertiliser company at auction
  • 1995 - Buys Yukos for $350m, with Menatep assuming $2bn in debt
  • 2003 - Arrested for tax evasion, embezzlement and fraud
  • 2004 - First court case begins
  • 2005 - Found guilty on six of seven charges, jailed for eight years
  • 2007 - Yukos declared bankrupt
  • March 2009 - Second court case starts in Moscow
  • December 2010 - Convicted of embezzlement and money laundering

Khodorkovsky has said that a state that destroys its best companies and trusts only the bureaucracy and the special services is a sick state.

Many critics believe the government wants the former tycoon kept behind bars for as long as possible because he financed the opposition when Vladimir Putin was president.

Mr Putin - now Russia's prime minister - referred to Khodorkovsky in a televised question-and-answer session last week, when he said he believed "a thief belongs in prison".

One of Khodorkovsky's lawyers, Vadim Klyuvgant, has criticised what he described as "an unjust verdict by a court that is not free", describing it as "shameful for the country".

"If the court were free and independent in issuing its verdict, it would have issued an acquittal. What we heard here confirms that the court has faced pressure," he told reporters.

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