Monday, December 27, 2010

Freedom Ground Under Heel of the State in the Russian Republic

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former head of Russia’s largest oil company and once Russia's richest man, has been found guilty of embezzlement.  His supporters say his real crime was daring to oppose the country’s prime minister, Vladimir Putin, elected president of the Russian Federation in 2000.

At the time of his arrest Khodorkovsky had begun to fund opposition parties, launched an anti government corruption crusade, and called for the privatization of some of the nations oil pipelines – initiatives that angered the Putin government.

Putin responded in the usual manner.  Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003, his oil company Yukos dismantled, and Khodorkovsky himself sentenced to eight years hard labour in Siberia.

As the time for his release approached, he was charged with new crimes, including embezzling 218 millions tonnes of oil from his own company.  Quite a feat, for generally Siberia would be considered a distant location from which to pull off such machinations.  Nevertheless, a second trial against Khodorkovsky was started in March 2009, and now the Russian court has found the man to be guilty - again.

The Communist party members defended the state's actions:
"Khodorkovsky is in jail because some oligarchs should be in jail: one has to show the new rules of the game," the pro-Kremlin member of parliament Sergei Markov said.  Putin repeated this justification on Russian television on December 16. Khodorkovsky was "in jail" because "every thief should go to jail," he said, stating that his "crimes" had been "proved by the court”.
Khodorkovsky makes a noble figure. A man who hoped for the liberties and freedom that the fall of the Soviet Union offered, but was crushed under by the power wielded by a former KGB agent.
"Just look at the images of his second trial: he’s not broken, he’s dignified and stands with great elegance and courage,” said Cecile Vaissié, professor at the University of Rennes and specialist on Russia’s intellectual world. "Intellectuals, well-known writers, journalists and lawyers have stood up to denounce Putin's personal vendetta."
Perhaps so, but Vladimir Putin does not appear to be moved. The former 'President' and now 'Prime Minister' of Russia has turned a dull ear to their cries.
Amid the Western chorus of protests, the former oil tycoon has also attracted the attention of US President Barack Obama. Last July he said the "bizarre" new charges against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev came "years after their imprisonment and at a time when they could have been pardoned."
Yeah, I don't think that's going to happen, Barry.
For many observers, the verdict of the trial was a foregone conclusion – and one that calls into question the credibility of Russia’s legal system.

The tendency for governments to tilt the field and distort the courts to further their own power is a great evil. Sadly, we have the same tendencies here.

1 comment:

  1. He seems very civil, polite and dresses nice.

    What could be wrong?