A Russian court on Wednesday reduced the sentence of the former business partner of jailed Russian oil executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky [defense website; JURIST news archive] by three years. Platon Lebedev [defense website; JURIST news archive] has been incarcerated since 2003 on various charges associated with his business partnership with Khodorkovsky. Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are each serving prison sentences for fraud, theft and money laundering, scheduled to run until 2016. The same court had issued a similar sentence reduction for Lebedev in August [JURIST report], but the ruling was struck down and the court was asked to reconsider [Reuters report]. Lawyers for Khodorkovsky said that they will seek a similar sentence reduction for their client. Khodorkovsky has denied all the charges and maintains that he was falsely convicted as retribution for funding opposition parties during a former presidency of current President Vladimir Putin [BBC profile].
In July a senior Russian judge ordered a court to review [JURIST report] Khodorkovsky's appeal. Opposition leaders and other groups have shown skepticism about the validity of Khodorkovsky's sentence. In December the Russia Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights under President Dmitry Medvedev called for the prosecutor general to petition to annul the conviction [JURIST report]. Describing the verdict as fictitious, council member and former Constitutional Court judge, Tamara Morshchakova, noted the council found neither evidence nor substance to the charges brought against Khodorkovsky in the second trial. The council's decisions are non-binding and have seldom elicited action from Russian authorities. In July the council urged amnesty for economic crimes in a meeting with Medvedev that would include amnesty for the crimes of Khodorkovsky. Last year former Russian prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov testified [JURIST report] that former president and current prime minister Vladimir Putin ordered Khodorkovsky's arrest for political reasons, indicating that Khodorkovsky had funded the Communist Party without first getting approval to do so from the president.