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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Marathon Verdict Keeps Running

MTWhere protesters and road workers jostled for space earlier this week, a policeman found little to do Wednesday.
Fewer television cameras, fewer lawyers, fewer demonstrators, fewer cops -- public excitement over the trial of former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky seemed to dwindle Wednesday as the judges entered the eighth day in their marathon reading of the verdict.

"According to my calculations, the judges have read through half the verdict," said Yelena Liptser, an attorney for Khodorkovsky's co-defendant, Platon Lebedev.

"It's unlikely the verdict will be finished by the end of this week."

Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, and his business partner Lebedev face up to 10 years in jail on charges of fraud, tax evasion and embezzlement in what many call the state's retribution for Khodorkovsky's political ambitions.

Taking turns, the three judges on Wednesday continued the laborious summation of documents and testimony before pronouncing a final verdict.

The judges dropped one charge against Khodorkovsky – that of forging documents – Interfax reported, but his lawyers downplayed the decision.

Liptser refused to make any predictions.

"Having heard 50 percent of the verdict, we think that it does not make sense to assess it from the legal point of view. This is a farce and mockery of the defendants," she said.

In any case, public interest in the case is waning.

Only three out of a dozen defense lawyers were present in court Wednesday. There were about 10 reporters inside the courtroom and 10 television cameras outside the courthouse – a sharp contrast to the first day of the verdict reading, when dozens of journalists fought to get past metal barriers and policemen.

Even road repairs started Sunday across the street from the courthouse were scaled down, with just six pieces of heavy machinery standing idle.

There were fewer protesters who came to support Khodorkovsky and fewer police guarding them.

Holding signs which read "It was an evil empire, now it is an empire of hypocrisy" and "Khodorkovsky's fate is the fate of democracy," some 40 demonstrators occasionally broke into a song in support of the jailed billionaire.

"Everyone is tired of it," said an on-duty police officer, sighing in the mid-day heat.

"I promised to go and buy a car for my wife today and look, here I am. ... I hope she won't get angry with me."