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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

So Far, Verdict Appears to Be Guilty

MTKhodorkovsky's supporters rallying across the street from the Meshchansky District Court on Monday as the three judges began reading the verdict.
A Moscow court began reading a verdict of several hundred pages on Monday in the state's case against Yukos founders Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, using language that left little doubt that the two men would be found guilty on fraud, embezzlement and tax evasion charges.

The defendants' lawyers said the reading of the verdict at the Meshchansky District Court would last at least two more days and refused to speculate on the possible severity of the sentences. Prosecutors have asked that Khodorkovsky and Lebedev each be sentenced to 10 years in prison.

"The sheer wording of the judge's opening sentence -- 'The court has established the guilt' -- means there will be a guilty verdict," Lebedev's chief defense lawyer, Yevgeny Baru, said after the court was adjourned until 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. But "the degree of their guilt has yet to be spelled out."

Baru said the portion of the verdict read Monday indicates that Chief Judge Irina Kolesnikova is siding with prosecutors because her choice of words echoes language used by Prosecutor Dmitry Shokhin when he first presented his case and when he made his closing arguments.

All eyes are on the court as the 11-month trial wraps up. The arrest of Khodorkovsky in October 2003 and Lebedev three months earlier rattled the business community, which has feared more prosecutions linked to the controversial 1990s privatizations. The case is widely seen as a Kremlin-orchestrated attempt to punish Khodorkovsky for his political and business ambitions.

The mood in the heavily guarded courtroom was quiet and the proceedings monotonous Monday, despite a noisy rally of Khodorkovsky supporters outside and the buzz of a small army of journalists -- most of whom could not squeeze into the small courtroom.

Although by law judges and the courtroom audience must stand while the verdict is delivered, Kolesnikova ordered the crowd to sit down soon after she began reading Monday afternoon because the verdict was so long.

The defendants' behavior differed little from previous days in court. Lebedev bent over a book of Japanese crossword puzzles, while Khodorkovsky scribbled in a notebook and then read a computer magazine. Both men signaled to their wives to take off the dark sunglasses that they have worn during the trial.

Kolesnikova and the two other judges, both women, took turns reading out the verdict, ignoring the muffled blare of chanting protesters and passing cars honking in support.

Khodorkovsky, however, once smiled at his mother, Marina, and pointed in the direction of the noise.

But the chants of support did not change the fact that the court was largely agreeing with the prosecution's version of events, Khodorkovsky's father, Boris, said as he left the court. "They are reading and reading. I have the impression that this is the same as the prosecution's charges, just a little bit edited," he said.

Vladimir Filonov / MT

Khodorkovsky's mother, Marina, carrying a bouquet of roses outside the Meshchansky District Court on Monday.

His pessimism was shared by several liberal politicians who joined the protesters outside the courthouse.

"We have no hope left that the verdict will be fair," said Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion and the co-chairman of the Committee-2008 democratic movement. The day that the sentence is announced "will be a sad day in Russia's history," he said.

But Yevgeny Kiselyov, the editor of Moskovskiye Novosti, which is owned by a subsidiary of Khodorkovsky's Group Menatep, said no verdict would serve the authorities.

"If the verdict is light -- a suspended sentence or if they are convicted to only the time already spent in jail -- then there will be a huge problem about how to deal with all those thousands of people ... who have spent at least two years working on this case as hard as they could," Kiselyov said.

"How would you explain that to them? And, mind you, they are the pillars on which the state is resting."

A harsh verdict would not do the state much good either, he said. "There is life after 2008 and even after 2012," he said, referring to the next two presidential elections. "And if the verdict is very tough, the people behind it must realize that one day, somebody -- I am not going to name names -- will call for them to be held responsible for it."

Staff Writer Lyuba Pronina contributed to this report.

The 7 Charges

The following are the seven charges against Mihkail Khodorkovsky:

• Theft with conspiracy

• Malicious failure to obey a court order

• Damage to property rights via fraud with conspiracy

• Repeated corporate tax evasion with conspiracy

• Personal tax or national insurance evasion

• Repeated forgery of documents

• Appropriation or embezzlement of property with conspiracy

Khodorkovsky was told in December that he also faced a new money-laundering charge. In a further legal attack on Khodorkovsky, prosecutors promised on Friday to come out soon with a separate set of unspecified charges.

-- Reuters

How Sentencing Works

Following are details of sentencing procedures and of what can happen before any sentence takes effect:


• The presiding judge reads the verdict on each charge for each defendant and normally includes details of all the evidence considered during the trial and the judges' assessment.

• If there is a guilty verdict, the sentence will be announced at the same time.

• Once all the verdicts on all the charges have been read out and if the defendant has been found guilty of any of them, the judge then declares a final prison sentence. The final sentence does not have to equal the total of the individual sentences.

• The sentencing procedure can last for days. But the judge can speed up the process by simply reading out the verdicts and any sentence.

• Any prison sentence does not take effect until lawyers on both sides, if they so wish, exercise their rights of appeal.


• The defense and the prosecution both have 10 days after the verdict to appeal.

• An appeal has to be considered within 14 days. The process of appeal can be repeated up the highest court, the Supreme Court.

• After all means of appeal are exhausted, defendants can go to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights.

-- Reuters