Supporters of jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky have been shouting for years that his trial was ordered by the Kremlin and closely stage managed to ensure a desirable outcome. But it's a different story entirely when someone from INSIDE the court says just that.
In a shocking interview released Monday, Natalya Vasilieva, an aide to Judge Viktor Danilkin and court spokeswoman, said she had become so "disillusioned" with the workings of Russia's notoriously corrupt justice system that she had no choice but to speak out. During Khodorkovsky's 20 month trial, which ended in December with a guilty verdict and 6 year sentence, Danilkin met weekly with judges at a higher court, and had to receive approval for everything from which witnesses could be allowed into the courtroom to the text of the verdict and sentencing. You can read an entire English translation of Vasilieva's interview here.
It's a great story -- someone from within the system has a crisis of conscience and then exposes the corruption that many long suspected but could never prove. But this is Russia and things are rarely that simple (and crises of conscience are even rarer). Either Vaslieva truly had an awakening and threw away her entire legal career with this (and she is in her 20s or 30s). Or, this is part of a larger project to get the Khodorkovsky verdict reviewed. Russia's liberals, who tend to gravitate towards President Dmitry Medvedev, know that the Khodorkovsky affair is a huge stain on their reputation as they travel the world trying to attract much needed investment. Medvedev recently ordered his human rights council, an advisory body with no legal or political sway, to review the case. It's mainly the hardliners around Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that want to see Khodorkovsky remain in jail. As Russia's presidential election, slated for early 2012, creeps ever closer, some analysts say these two groups are fighting to make sure it's their "candidate" that gets to keep or return to the Kremlin seat.
Either way, this story isn't over yet.