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Khodorkovsky sees 'legal schizophrenia' in trial

 Mikhail Khodorkovsky, right, is escorted to a court room in Moscow on Tuesday, April 6, 2010. Imprisoned former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovs...
 Mikhail Khodorkovsky smiles from behind a glass barrier in a court room in Moscow on Tuesday, April 6, 2010. Imprisoned former Russian oil tycoon Mik...
 Mikhail Khodorkovsky, right, is escorted to a court room in Moscow on Tuesday, April 6, 2010. Imprisoned former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovs...
 Mikhail Khodorkovsky smiles from behind glass baarrier in a court room in Moscow on Tuesday, April 6, 2010. Imprisoned former Russian oil tycoon Mikh...

Russia Khodorkovsky

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, right, is escorted to a court room in Moscow on Tuesday, April 6, 2010. Imprisoned former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovs...

Russia Khodorkovsky

Mikhail Khodorkovsky smiles from behind a glass barrier in a court room in Moscow on Tuesday, April 6, 2010. Imprisoned former Russian oil tycoon Mik...

Russia Khodorkovsky

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, right, is escorted to a court room in Moscow on Tuesday, April 6, 2010. Imprisoned former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovs...

Russia Khodorkovsky

Mikhail Khodorkovsky smiles from behind glass baarrier in a court room in Moscow on Tuesday, April 6, 2010. Imprisoned former Russian oil tycoon Mikh...

Imprisoned former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky accused the Russian justice system of "legal schizophrenia" Tuesday and said the charges against him are part of a corrupt government plot to seize his assets.
Taking the stand for the first time since his second trial began a year ago, he launched into a theatrical argument against the merits of the case, flustering the prosecution and annoying the judge with props that included a jar of crude oil, which he encouraged prosecutors to smell.
Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, is charged with embezzling more than $25 billion worth of oil and laundering most of the proceeds, charges his lawyers say are ridiculous.
The legal assault on Khodorkovsky and his business partners, which dates back to 2003, is widely seen as punishment for challenging Vladimir Putin, the former Russian president who remains as powerful as ever in his current role as prime minister.
A prison sentence of eight years in 2005 for tax evasion was followed up in 2009 with the new embezzlement charges, which could keep Khodorkovsky behind bars for 22 more years if he is again convicted.
"This trial is political and corruptly motivated. It is driven by a desire to keep me from going free. It has also been motivated by a desire to appropriate the assets of the largest and most successful Russian oil company, Yukos," he told a packed courtroom.
The charges in the case rest on allegations that Khodorkovsky and his partner Platon Lebedev embezzled all of the crude produced by their Yukos oil company from 1998 to 2003.
Khodorkovsky argued that this would have been physically impossible, and entered a motion demanding that the prosecution demonstrate how exactly this could have happened.
"To give you a crude analogy, your honor, the smoking gun in this case would have been incapable of firing," he told the presiding judge, Viktor Danilkin, who dismissed the motion, saying clarification of the charges is not appropriate to the advanced phase of the proceedings.
The trial is considered a test of whether President Dmitry Medvedev, himself a lawyer, is serious about reforming Russia's judicial system. In other cases, judges have come forward to complain they face political pressure.
Prosecutors on Tuesday again failed to explain how Yukos could have covered its expenses and expanded production if all the oil it had was being stolen, defense lawyers said.


Updated : 2020-12-06 02:30 GMT+08:00