Khodorkovsky appeal begins

Jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has launched an appeal against the guilty verdict against him handed down by a Moscow court late last year. The appeal is being heard at Moscow City Court and you can watch it live here. It might well last all day, and perhaps into tomorrow, as Khodorkovsky, his former business partner Platon Lebedev and their lawyers address the court.

A hearing scheduled for last week was delayed on technical grounds. Many believed the delay came because of ill timing (Dmitry Medvedev gave his much touted press conference the next day).

Speaking to the court Tuesday morning, Khodorkovsky veered between anger and laughter, as he recounted what he called the absurd charges against him. He walked through the grounds for appeal, but whenever he veered into grand statements about the state of justice in Russia, the judge implored: “Let’s stick to the matter at hand please.”

Speaking about the verdict, in which he was found guilty of money laundering and embezzlement, Khodorkovsky said: “In what dusty cellar did they dig up that poisonous Stalinist spider who wrote this drivel? What kind of long-term investments can one talk about with such justice?” Dmitry Medvedev’s much-touted modernization has no chance of succeeding without justice reform, he said.

In a failed tactic he attempted to use during his trial, Khodorkovsky appealed directly to the judge, asking him not to take part in a corrupt system, noting that his fate would not be decided in that courtroom. “There is no way to correct this verdict. Either overturn and terminate this shamefulness or join the ranks of the criminals, who spit on the law.” The judge appeared unamused.

Khodorkovsky made the definitive speech of his case in November last year, as his second trial came to a close. You can read about it here.