Jailed Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky was sentenced to six more years in prison yesterday, following a trial seen as payback for his defiance of Vladimir Putin.
Judge Viktor Danilkin sentenced Khodorkovsky to 14 years after convicting him of stealing oil from his own company and laundering the proceeds. The 14-year sentence, which was what prosecutors had demanded, will be counted from his 2003 arrest and include a previous term in prison.
Khodorkovsky is in the final year of an eight-year prison sentence. Mr Putin, now prime minister, is seen as the driving force behind the unrelenting legal attack on Khodorkovsky, who challenged him early in his presidency. As he considers a return to the presidency in 2012, Mr Putin appears unwilling to risk the possibility that a freed Khodorkovsky could help lead his political foes.
The outcome of the second trial exposes how little has changed under President Dmitry Medvedev, despite his promises to strengthen the rule of law and make courts an independent branch of government.
"It's a very cruel and absurd sentence that proves the well-known fact that Russia has no independent courts," said Lyudmila Alexeyeva, a veteran rights activist and chairwoman of the Moscow Helsinki Group. "An independent court would have acquitted the defendants and punished the investigators who concocted the charges."