Investigators: No proof Khodorkovsky judge pressed

AP News
Posted: Jun 14, 2011 11:23 AM
Investigators: No proof Khodorkovsky judge pressed

Russia's top investigative body said Tuesday that a judge's former assistant is unable to present convincing evidence that the judge was pressured by his superiors in the trial of jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Natalya Vasilyeva's claim of political pressure reinforced widespread contentions that Khodorkovsky's conviction was a case of political revenge for defying the Kremlin.

Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, was seen as a political threat to Vladimir Putin, who was president when the oil tycoon was arrested in 2003 and remains Russia's most influential figure now as a prime minister.

Judge Viktor Danilkin last December found Khodorkovsky guilty of embezzlement and money laundering and sentenced him to 14 years in prison. The term, which was reduced to 13 years on appeal, will run concurrently with an eight-year sentence now coming to an end.

A couple of months after the verdict was issued, Danilkin's assistant gave an interview describing in detail what she said was pressure placed on the judge to change his ruling and the negative effects it had on his mood. Danilkin denied her claims.

Vasilyeva was questioned on Tuesday by the Investigative Committee, which then issued a statement saying the inquiry showed her claims "were not confirmed by any objective evidence and were based only on guesses and suppositions."

She said after the questioning that she stands by her allegations, the Interfax news agency reported.

Vasilyeva also made public what she claims are the final three pages of Danilkin's draft verdict, a lengthy summary of the trial that concludes with the sentence. In the documents, published on the website of the Ekho Moskvy radio station, Khodorkovsky is sentenced only to 10 years in prison. A line is drawn through the pages as if someone did not approve of the text.

The authenticity of the typed pages could not be verified.

Khodorkovsky was sent last week to a prison colony outside of Moscow to continue serving his sentence. His family has not yet been notified of his location.