Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Khodorkovsky: 9 years in a labor camp, if he survives

The longest verdict in history has finally concluded and -- in a shocking development -- Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been sentenced to 9 years in a labor camp.
As I've written before, Khodorkovsky is no saint, and probably deserves time in prison for some financial ploy or other. Nevertheless, this does not mean that justice has been served. If he can't be convicted in a fair trial in which the defense is treated seriously, in a legal system which holds everyone to the same standards and does not pick and choose to whom the law is applied, he should not be convicted at all. I'm not sure whether Putin picked on Khodorovsky for political reasons, for economic reasons, or both, but it's clear that the law to him is nothing more than an instrument to get his own way, and that's a terrible comment on the state of Russia today.
The only really interesting comment I've seen on the verdict was on the BBC, where two Russian businessmen offer an interesting counter-perspective to the way the Western media is reporting this. Read it keeping in mind that it's in the interests of Russian businessmen to play down the verdict in order to reassure foreign investors and stay on Putin's right side.

UPDATE: Interestingly, since I first read the BBC piece earlier this afternoon, it's been edited to remove the bit that made it interesting. The top piece, by Eric Kraus, originally included two paragraphs towards the top in which he accused Khodorkovsky of trying to buy the opposition to control parliament, trying to control Russia's economic policy in order to benefit himself, betraying Russia by actively campaigning against it, 'buying' American senators etc. I wish I'd copied and pasted... In any case, these long two paragraphs have been replaced by the rather tamer: "Khodorkovsky is in trouble for having interfered too readily in politics, bringing his influence to bear on a bloc of friendly politicians." I guess the pro-Putin line was too strong even for the Beeb.

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