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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Khodorkovsky Told to Find a Lawyer

Judges at the Moscow City Court on Tuesday adjourned Mikhail Khodorkovsky's appeal for a third time due to the absence of key defense lawyers Genrikh Padva and Yury Shmidt, but warned that if they failed to show up in court on Thursday a state-funded public defender would step in.

Padva, the only lawyer authorized by Khodorkovsky to represent him in the appeal, remains in the hospital due to poor health, and Shmidt is traveling.

The delay, which infuriated state prosecutor Dmitry Shokhin, allows another couple days' breathing space for Khodorkovsky to register as a candidate in a Dec. 4 State Duma by-election. Registration for the race in the traditionally liberal Universitetsky district of Moscow began Monday and lasts until Oct. 29.

If Khodorkovsky's appeal is rejected, he will not be allowed to run.

By Thursday, a 10-year statute of limitations will run out on one of the charges against Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev, the alleged illegal privatization of a research institute in Moscow. It was unclear whether the two men's sentences of nine years in prison would be reduced as a result, but such a legal opportunity exists, Khodorkovsky's lawyers said.

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were found guilty of fraud and tax evasion in May after a highly politicized trial. Lebedev has refused to participate in the appeal proceedings, citing a lack of faith in the judicial system. Khodorkovsky has insisted on being represented only by Padva, whose absence has already delayed the start of the appeal by a week, or by Shmidt, another experienced lawyer.

Khodorkovsky has refused to seek the services of other lawyers, despite the court on Monday attempting to replace Padva with lawyers Anton Drel, Yelena Levina and Denis Dyatlev. All three on Tuesday officially declined to represent Khodorkovsky in court, saying they had not had time to study the complete trial record. They were then asked to leave the seats allocated for the defense team and told to sit with the public. Khodorkovsky, at least briefly, was left unrepresented by any lawyer.

After an outburst by Shokhin, who said that the defense lawyers' absence was "a deliberate attempt to delay the hearing," the panel of three judges ruled that the appeal would begin Thursday. If neither Padva nor Shmidt appeared in court then, the court would appoint a lawyer for him.

"Given the contradictory information regarding the time needed for lawyer Padva's recovery, and regarding the possibility of Shmidt appearing in court ... the court considers it necessary ... to provide Khodorkovsky with a public defender," assistant judge Alexei Marinenko said as he adjourned the hearing.

A public defender is unlikely to be required, however, as Padva sent an official letter to the court saying that he would show up Thursday.

Khodorkovsky's father, Boris, welcomed Tuesday's ruling as fair and legal.

"Compared with previous court proceedings and judges, maybe these are really judges that act according to the law," he said after the adjournment.

During Khodorkovsky's and Lebedev's 10-month trial at Moscow's Meshchansky District Court, their lawyers frequently complained that the judges were violating procedures and obstructing the defense.