European court says Russian Mikhail Khodorkovsky's trial was not political


Jailed Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky talks to his lawyer through the bullet-proof glass defendents' cage at a Moscow court on March 31, 2009. A Moscow court on Dec. 30, 2010 sentenced Khodorkovsky to 14 years in jail in his second fraud trial, a verdict slammed as cruel and absurd by rights activists.



A top European court has ruled that charges against Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his partner Platon Lebedev were not politically motivated.

Khodorkovsky, a fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, claimed that the 2005 charges of tax evasion and fraud were a political punishment.

The charges earned Khodorkovsky and Lebedev a lengthy sentence at a remote prison near the Arctic Circle.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that the businessmen were treated unfairly during the trial but that the charges against them were valid.

"Charges against two Russian business executives had a sound basis, but the hearing of their case was unfair, and their placement in remote penal colonies unjustified," the court said.

Despite allegations by some human rights groups that the charges were a punishment for opposing Putin, the court decided the prosecution was not illegitimate "from start to finish."

Judges from the court ordered Moscow to pay $13,200 in damages to Khodorkovsky, who was once the wealthiest man in Russia.

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Khodorkovsky made his fortune when the Russian oil company Yukos went private after the Soviet Union's 1991 collapse.

He and Lebedev were tried again in 2010, convicted of stealing oil from their own company and sentenced to 14 years.

In December, their sentences were reduced by two years allowing Khodorkovsky to walk away from the Siberian prison in October 2014.