Khodorkovsky judge denies being pressured into verdict

Judge Viktor Danilkin reads the verdict in Moscow, Russia (27 Dec 2010) Viktor Danilkin said he would stand by the verdict "until the end of my days"

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The Russian judge who extended the jail term of dissident tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky to 14 years has denied he had been put under pressure.

In a TV interview, Viktor Danilkin again rejected accusations by a former aide that he had been influenced during the widely criticised trial.

The 2010 ruling against Khodorkovsky extended his jail term for embezzlement and money laundering by six years.

The aide, Natalya Vasilyeva, has said she stands by her accusations.

The trial for fraud of Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev was widely condemned abroad as unfair.

Already in detention since 2003, the addition of six years in prison to his sentence means he is not now due for release until 2017.

Last week, Ms Vasilyeva said the judge had been obliged to read out a difference sentence when it became apparent that his own was not acceptable to his superiors.

Under Russian law, it is for the judge alone to write his verdict, without any interference by other members of the judiciary.

But Mr Danilkin has previously described her comments as slander and on Thursday he told Russian TV: "I signed the sentence, I announced it, and I will bear responsibility for this sentence until the end of my days."

Oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky was once Russia's richest man but was also a fierce critic of the government.

Once seen as a threat to former President Vladimir Putin, he was found guilty along with former business partner Platon Lebedev of stealing billions of dollars from their own oil firm, Yukos, and laundering the proceeds.

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