Julian Lehmann is a research associate at the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin, Germany and a SJD candidate at Dresden University of Technology.
“Ten Years a Prisoner”
Mikhail Khodorkovsky (pictured right, credit), the former Russian business magnate and opposition sponsor was released from prison under a presidential pardon in late December – just two months after he had commemorated the ten year anniversary of his imprisonment. The images of the tycoon fallen from favor into the dock for many had became symbols for political interference with courts. Regardless of whether one clings to such symbolism, judicial independence in Russia still leaves much to be desired, not least according to the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.
Khodorkovsky and his associate Platon Lebedev are the most prominent alleged victims of political imprisonment. As many will recall, Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003 and convicted in 2005 for tax evasion in the turbulent 1990s. Then, he sold produce of his oil and resource company Yukos to alleged sham Russian firms registered in low tax zones. He was put on trial again in 2010. Vladimir Putin, pending Khodorkovsky’s appeal, bragged in a TV interview that ‘a thief must sit in jail’. He alluded to a phrase from the popular Soviet TV mini-series ‘You Can’t Change the Meeting Place’ – a detective story featuring the dissident artistic icon Vladimir Vysotsky. The title takes up the series’ final, in which Vysotsky suggests that he and his fellow policemen have no choice but to go for a plan that puts their abducted colleague at risk.
Putin omitted the second half of the film’s citation. Vysotsky, the old-school hot rock, repeatedly clashes with his fastidious partner over the choice of means for policing. Not shying away from breaking the law, Vysotsky states that ‘A thief must be in jail – and people are not interested in how I get them there.’
Putin’s candidness about his view on Khodorkovsky hasn’t gone unnoticed. Read the rest of this entry…