Lawyer for former Russian oil executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky [defense website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday appealed [executive summary, PDF] his December conviction [JURIST report] and requested that an Investigative Committee open a probe [text, in Russian] against Judge Viktor Danilkin. In February, Danilkin's assistant accused the judge of not writing the verdict [JURIST report] and stated he was coerced into reading it [interview text, in Russian]. Khodorkovsky's lawyers allege that Danilkin committed fraud and forgery and knowingly made unfair judgments. The appeal alleges that the verdict does not identify acts implying criminal liability, that there were fundamental and irreparable violations of due process and that the verdict contradicts previous rulings:
The verdict subsequently issued in the second criminal case against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev—most likely to be enshrined as "sacred" by the appellate court—does in fact rely upon canceling and changing laws of formal logic and commonly known facts. The verdict is a knowing and willful fictional description of purported criminal conduct, devoid of corpus delicti, blind to the preponderance of exculpatory evidence and built upon a bulldozing of due process. Should it be upheld as expected upon appeal, the verdict will stand as a monumental embarrassment to the Russian judiciary and to those state officials who seek to portray it as a valid act of justice.The appeal hearing has been postponed for a week [Moscow Times report], so judges can fully understand Khodorkovsky's claims. Supporters of Khodorkovsky assert that this is to prevent President Dmitry Medvedev [official profile; JURIST news archive] from being questioned on the trial during his press conference on Wednesday.
In December, Danilkin sentenced [JURIST report] Khodorkovsky and his business partner, Platon Lebedev [defense website; JURIST news archive], to six additional years in prison, extending their imprisonment to a total of 14 years. Their defense counsel staunchly criticized the ruling, claiming [press release] that the court blocked significant amounts of testimony and evidence submitted by the defense and systematically quashed objections to their omission. The verdict drew vehement international criticism [JURIST report], including from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile], who said [press release] that the ruling "raises serious questions about selective prosecution." The Russian Ministry for Foreign Affairs [official website, in Russian] dismissed critics, saying [press release, in Russian] that "[a]ttempts to exert pressure on the court are unacceptable." The men are currently serving eight-year prison sentences for fraud and tax evasion [JURIST report], to which they were sentenced in 2005 for the same money laundering from Yukos. Last May, former Russian prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov [BBC profile] testified [JURIST report] that Putin ordered Khodorkovsky's arrest for political reasons, indicating that Khodorkovsky had funded the Communist Party [party website, in Russian] without first getting approval to do so from the president. In March 2010, Khodorkovsky criticized Russia's justice system [JURIST report] as an "assembly line" that inevitably finds the government's political enemies to be guilty.