Moscow's top court has rejected Mikhail Khodorkovsky's appeal against his conviction for theft and money laundering, condemning Russia's former richest man to another five years behind bars.
The judge at Moscow City Court reduced Khodorkovsky's sentence by one year, which gives the former boss of Yukos a 2016 release date. He was found guilty of the crimes in December, after a long court case that his supporters say was politically motivated and fabricated to ensure that he stays behind bars. The former oligarch was first arrested in 2003, and was convicted of tax evasion in an earlier trial.
Khodorkovsky gave an impassioned speech from inside the glass defendant's cage at the court yesterday. He railed against the political and legal system, and said the charges against him and his co-defendant Platon Lebedev were farcical. "In what dusty cellar did they dig up that poisonous Stalinist spider who wrote this drivel?" he asked of the verdict in his case. "I have nothing to talk about with criminals, even those in a judge's robe. And indeed there is no reason for me to. I do not need mercy from criminals."
In the aftermath of the verdict in the initial court case, a secretary at the court said the presiding judge, Viktor Danilkin, had been under orders of how to rule in the case, and did not write the final verdict himself. Mr Danilkin has denied this. Russia's tough-talking Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, was asked about Khodorkovsky's case a few days before Mr Danilkin's ruling, and said: "A thief should sit in jail."
"There is no such thing as a rule-of-law state without an honest judiciary," said Khodorkovsky yesterday. "The destruction of law – this is the annihilation of the country's future. This is treason. And there is no pardon for treason."
Khodorkovsky's lawyers have said they will now appeal to the European Court of Human Rights over the case, and a group of Russian activists say they will petition Amnesty International to label Khodorkovsky and Lebedev prisoners of conscience.
The former oligarch has spent more than a year in a Moscow prison, but he will probably now be sent back to a prison in a far corner of Russia. He spent the majority of his first sentence in a Siberian jail, six time zones east of Moscow.