The US, UK, and Germany have come out criticizing strongly the Russian court’s judgement sentencing oil tycoon Khodorkovsky a second time. Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev have already been sentenced in 2005 for allegedly commiting fraud and tax evasion. They were arrested in 2003. The duo is now again handed a sentence of life imprisonment as they were found guilty of embezzlement and money laundering.
Once seen as a threat to former President Vladimir Putin, he was found guilty along with Lebedev of stealing billions of dollars from their own oil firm, Yukos, and laundering the proceeds. Their lawyers said they would appeal but, if the sentence remains, Khodorkovsky will not be released until well after the next presidential election.
West alleges that Putin's government has pressured the justice system to sentence him further, as he would become a potential competitor against Putin. The defence lawyers contend that the allegations are meaningless as the oil alleged to be embezzled would be almost equal to the total production of Yukos during the period in question. They claim that the sentence amounted to lawlessness. Supporters of Khodorkovsky held rallies outside the court.
The US State Department spokesperson said Washington was concerned by the abusive use of the legal system in Russia after the latest judgement. Later an unnamed senior US administrator was quoted by BBC News as saying that the sentencing might complicate Russia’s expected entry into the World Trade Organisation in 2011. Germany Chancellor Angela Markel said she was deeply disappointed and the sentence appeared to have political motives. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague asked Russia to respect the principles of justice and apply the rule of law in a non-discriminatory manner.
A BBC correspondent said that the Russian authorities told the rest of the world to mind their own business. He seems to believe that the rest of the world means only the US, the UK, and Germany. Other than these three countries, no country has yet commented on the issue. Yet, he chose to attribute the opinion of three countries to the rest of the world. It is nothing but “manufacturing consent.”