A Moscow court will this morning hear an appeal from the jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, against a sentence that will keep him in prison until at least 2017. His lawyers, who claim the case against Russia's former richest man is politically motivated, say they have little hope that the judge will overturn the guilty verdict.
In the event that he is kept behind bars, a group of Russian activists plans in the coming days to petition Amnesty International to label Khodorkovsky a prisoner of conscience. "We ... believe that today's Russian authorities are persecuting Khodorkovsky because of his independent political position and attempts to prevent the rollback of democratic institutions in the Russian Federation," says the letter, which is signed by 15 people, all of whom have at some point been recognised by Amnesty as political prisoners.
The letter also mentions Khodorkovsky's "political essay-writing activity whilst in prison and critique of the actions of the regime". "If during the first process you couldn't really call him a prisoner of conscience, now you definitely can," said Grigory Pasko, a Russian journalist who is co-ordinating the letter to Amnesty.
Khodorkovsky ran Yukos, once Russia's biggest oil company, but after funding opposition political groups was arrested in 2003 and sentenced to eight years in a Siberian jail on charges of tax evasion. A second court case last year found Khodorkovsky guilty of embezzlement and extended his jail sentence to 14 years.Reuse content