Russia Targets Aides of Imprisoned Yukos Oil Tycoon ; Khodorkovsky's Lawyers Face Disbarment in What Some Say Is a Campaign to Silence Kremlin Critics

By Fred Weir Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, October 11, 2005 | Go to article overview

Russia Targets Aides of Imprisoned Yukos Oil Tycoon ; Khodorkovsky's Lawyers Face Disbarment in What Some Say Is a Campaign to Silence Kremlin Critics


Fred Weir Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Mikhail Khodorkovsky is serving an eight-year prison term and Yukos, the oil empire that he founded, has been largely renationalized by the Russian state.

But in recent days, many of the lawyers who defended Mr. Khodorkovsky - and others who worked for him - have found themselves targets in an expanding campaign of official harassment that some experts say is aimed at intimidating all potential critics of the Kremlin.

Four of Khodorkovsky's Russian lawyers currently face disbarment for "dragging out" their client's recent appeal, which a Moscow court rejected last month. Another member of the team, Olga Artyukhova, was removed from the Moscow Bar "at her own request," while the prosecutor has appealed to the Ministry of Justice to "discipline" four others. Robert Amsterdam, a Canadian lawyer working for Khodorkovsky, was expelled from Russia by the Federal Security Service (FSB) two weeks ago.

Khodorkovsky, who refused to flee Russia in the face of prosecution, remains a potential political force, some experts say. "He won't stay in jail forever, and the authorities are still scared of him," says Vladimir Pribylovsky, director of Panorama, an independent think tank.

"The goal here is to cut Khodorkovsky from all of his ties to the world, and to make people stop supporting him. It's also intended to scare lawyers, to make them forget the behavior they've grown used to over the past 15 years," he says.

Monday Khodorkovsky's lawyers discovered that their client has been taken from the Moscow remand jail where he has spent the past two years and transported to a prison camp to serve out his sentence. The authorities will inform the prisoner's family "within 10 days" where to send his mail, Khodorkovsky's press center said.

Russian prosecutors last week signaled that Khodorkovsky's own legal troubles may be far from over.

Russia's erstwhile richest man has been in prison since October 2003 on charges of fraud and tax evasion. He was eventually convicted in late May. But a series of police raids last week on banks, legal offices, and the nonprofit Open Russia Foundation connected with Khodorkovsky suggest a new case may be in the offing. …

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