Protesters Seek Yukos Lawyer's Release

MTPeople rallying near the Chistiye Prudy metro station in support of Svetlana Bakhmina on her 39th birthday Monday.
About 60 supporters of jailed Yukos lawyer Svetlana Bakhmina held a sanctioned protest near the Chistiye Prudy metro station on Monday to gather signatures for a petition for her early release.

Bakhmina, who turned 39 on Monday, was denied early release in September despite having served half her sentence and being seven months pregnant. She also has two young children.

People gathered at the protest waved pictures of Bakhmina and her children and chanted "happy birthday."

"We are saying that the government, instead of showing its cruelty, should show a human face and let Svetlana free to be with her children," said Nadir Fatov, a protester who held a placard saying "Mr. President, Stop scorning the mother and her children."

An Internet petition to President Dmitry Medvedev at contained more than 21,000 signatures by Monday afternoon. It asks the president to use his authority to grant her a pardon.

In a separate open letter published Friday, human rights activist Yelena Bonner appealed to the wives of the president and prime minister, Svetlana Medvedeva and Lyudmila Putina, asking them to influence their husbands to pardon Bakhmina.

To mark Bakhmina's birthday on Monday, Ogonyok magazine published four pages of her letters from prison.

In a further development in the Yukos case on Monday, Mikhail Khodorkovsky's lawyers won a legal victory at the Chita regional court. The judge overturned a district court's rejection of their complaint that investigators hid and manipulated evidence in the second case against ex-magnate and business partner Platon Lebedev.

The regional court's decision is "positive, good news," Khodorkovsky's lawyer Vadim Klyuvgant said Monday. He added that lawyers had yet to study the details of what motivated the court's decision.

The chairman of the district court rejected the complaint in a letter and also advised the lawyers that taking the complaint to the regional court would lead to another refusal, Klyuvgant said, calling this "glaring arbitrariness."

Khodorkovsky was to make an appeal on the court's parole decision on Wednesday, Klyuvgant said.

He has been living in an isolation cell in Chita region detention center since Thursday after Esquire magazine published an interview with him based on correspondence through lawyers. The interviewer was well-known writer Grigory Chkhartishvili, who writes under the pen name Boris Akunin.

"He is cheerful. He's a very strong person. You can't break him with a isolation cell," Klyuvgant said.

Supporters of Khodorkovsky are holding a hunger strike in Chita's Center for the Support of Civilian Initiatives. Three have been going without food for four days, while a third joined on Monday.

The leader of the four hunger strikers, Marina Savvateyeva, said by telephone that striker Valery Nemirov handed in a petition to the Chita detention center on Monday asking the prison administration to move Khodorkovsky out of the isolation cell.

All the strikers feel good, she said, adding that she planned to continue the hunger strike until their demands are met, rather than stopping on Wednesday as originally planned. Khodorkovsky was ordered to spend 12 days in the isolation cell.