[JURIST] Preliminary hearings began Tuesday in the new trial of former Russian oil executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky [defense website; JURIST news archive] in a Moscow courtroom. Khodorkovsky and his former business partner Platon Lebedev [defense website] are facing new charges [JURIST report] of embezzling and laundering nearly $20 billion during their tenures at the Russian energy firm OAO Yukos Oil Co. [TIME backgrounder]. During Tuesday's proceedings, the Moscow court rejected a request [Moscow Times report] by Khodorkovsky's lawyers to remove two Russian state prosecutors who were involved in his 2005 trial [JURIST report] for fraud and tax evasion. The court also rejected a defense request to move Khodorkovsky [NYT report] from the glass and steel enclosure where defendants are normally kept, which many Russian lawyers believe violates international law. Khodorkovsky's lawyers have said that they believe his trial will last for more than six months [Interfax report].
Critics have claimed that the charges against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are politically motivated due to Khodorkovsky's opposition of former Russian president Vladimir Putin [JURIST news archive]. The transfer of the two from prison to Moscow to stand trial on the new charges was ordered [JURIST report] two weeks ago by a judge for the District Court in Moscow. Khodorkovsky is currently serving an eight-year sentence for his 2005 conviction on the fraud and tax evasion charges, although he maintains his innocence. He requested early release last July, but his application was rejected [JURIST reports] in August because he disobeyed guards at the Krasnokamensk penal colony [Guardian backgrounder], refused to participate in a training program, and faced the possibility of additional charges. Khodorkovsky has appealed [JURIST report] that decision.