Russia’s Supreme Court has ruled that jailed former Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev were illegally held in a Moscow pre-trial detention center for three months during their second trial.
The businessmen’s defense lawyers had appealed against the May-August 2010 custody, citing amendments to the criminal code adopted last April that abolished pre-trial detention for economic crimes.
This is the second time the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the men over the issue. Last April, it brought a similar ruling for the August-November period of the trial.
Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were sentenced to 14 years each in December for oil embezzlement and money laundering. The term included the seven years they had already served, mostly in Chita in eastern Siberia, for tax evasion and money laundering. The pair were moved to a pre-trial detention center in Moscow and stayed there until hearings in their second court case finished in November.
Conditions in Russian pre-trial detention centers are often far worse than in prisons and some lawyers and human rights campaigners allege they are used by the authorities to put pressure on defendants.
Khodorkovsky and Lebedev have repeatedly denied all the charges against them, saying they are politically motivated. The Kremlin has consistently dismissed the allegations. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said “a thief belongs in jail” ahead of the second trial.