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.”
Mr. Putin is said to refer to Khodorkovsky in a televised interview last week as a thief who belongs in prison. After the first sentence, Yukos filed for bankruptcy. Putin reacted to the criticism a week back asking the critics to mind their own business and the issue was their internal matter.
The question is whether the US deserves a right to ask other countries to observe the rule of law while it is involved in killings of large number of innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US is resorting to numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity without being ever questioned. According to Amy Goodman, the presenter of TV channel Democracy Now, for every militant killed in Afghanistan ten civilians are killed in drone attacks. Now the US is also looking to charge Julian Assange, Wikileaks editor, with espionage. It has appointed grand jury to find ways for indicting Julian on any charge, presumably espionage that could seek his extradition to the US and keep him in US jails no matter whether he really committed such crimes.
The US kept Panama president Noriega on drug trafficking charges simply because he tried to exercise sovereignty over the Panama Canal. It bombed Grenada and tried to kill Gaddafi by bombing his palace. The US kept itself out of the purview of the International Criminal Court disregarding international rule of law. America’s unconditional support of Israel and its murderous activities is a biggest threat to peace process in the Middle East. Attacking Afghanistan in the name of the war on terrorism and toppling the Iraqi government in the name of democracy is a gravest violation of natural principles of justice, rule of law, humanity, and sovereignty of independent countries. All these crimes demonstrate that the US is the biggest terrorist state. Leaked diplomatic documents once again unequivocally proved that fact.
The US should first stop its abuse of the rule of international law. Then only it can acquire a moral right to condemn immoral and illegal acts of other states. Until then, it is the first country to be condemned by the international community for its hegemonic acts and wars of aggression around the world.