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Russia denies parole to Khodorkovsky co-accused

29 july 2011, 11:31
0
Platon Lebedev, jailed business partner of Russian ex-tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky. ©Reuters
Platon Lebedev, jailed business partner of Russian ex-tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky. ©Reuters
A Russian court on Wednesday denied parole to the co-accused of ex-oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, despite emotional pleas by his family for his release after spending over eight years in jail, AFP reports.

The court in Velsk in northern Russia rejected the request to free Platon Lebedev, Khodorkovsky's former business partner who was condemned alongside him in two separate trials, Russian news agencies reported.

Judge Nikolai Raspopov said that Lebedev had not shown any sign of remorse and had committed a string of violations of prison rules, the ITAR-TASS news agency reported.

"The aim of the punishment has not been realised and thus there is no reason for parole," he added.

Lebedev had earlier said in a brief speech from his courtroom cage that he should be released as he was a "political prisoner" and his incarceration was incompatible with Russia's claims to be a constitutional state.

Saying his health was poor, he added: "I have already entered my ninth year of loss of freedom and loss of the possibility of being a husband, father and grandfather. This is a huge amount of time."

Supporters including his wife and star Soviet actress Natalya Fateyeva were permitted to make statements in his favour while the court also allowed a letter from his nine-year-old daughter Masha to be read out asking for her father to be allowed home.

But officials at Velsk prison where Lebedev is being held opposed the parole, saying he had committed a string of violations including losing his prison uniform and addressing a member of staff by the informal "you".

The defence said it would appeal the decision.

Lawyers have also made a parole request for Khodorkovsky himself, but he is now in prison in the Karelia region and the petition will be heard there at a date which has yet to be announced.

"Such a decision was predictable. Khodorkovsky's request will also be rejected because decisions are not made by the court, but at a higher level," RIA Novosti quoted Lyudmila Alexeyeva, a prominent Russian rights activist, as saying.

"We are disappointed by the court's decision. We still consider Lebedev a prisoner of conscience," the head of Amnesty International's Russian branch, Sergei Nikitin, told Interfax.

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, who were arrested in 2003, are serving an eight- year sentence handed down in 2005 for tax evasion and are set to stay in jail until 2016 after receiving another sentence for fraud.

Their supporters claim they are political prisoners punished because Khodorkovsky dared to fund opposition to strongman leader Vladimir Putin but the authorities insist they committed serious financial crimes.

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