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Khodorkovsky Lawyer Takes Case to Germany

The defense lawyer for imprisoned Russian oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky visited Berlin on Monday to raise awareness for the case, as his client allegedly stands no chance of receiving a fair trial.


Robert Amsterdam is drumming up foreign support for his client.

A fair trial is all that Mikhail Khodorkovsky wants, however, according to Robert Amsterdam, his Canadian lawyer, Khodorkovsky, the former CEO of Yukos oil company, who has been charged with fraud and tax evasion, has rejected any offers by supporters to buy his freedom with Yukos shares.

"I haven't received any instructions but to take every legal action possible," Amsterdam said during a DW-WORLD interview. While he has not been able to see his client in private since his arrest last October, the lawyer said contact still existed.

Asked whether he believed the Kremlin could reverse its attitude towards the case after the March 14 presidential elections, which Putin is all but certain to win, Amsterdam said he had no idea what would happen: "The one thing I've learned about Russia is: 'Don't even try to predict tomorrow because you don't even understand yesterday.'"

A political decision?

Yokos-Konzern-Chef Michail Chodorkowski hinter Gitter mit Thumbnail

Mikhail Khodorkovsky in prison last November.

A positive outcome for Khodorkovsky (photo) would have to be sanctioned by the Kremlin, Amsterdam said. He claimed Moscow's Basmanny court, which is handling the case, was not independent in its decisions.

"Basmanny justice means no justice at all," he said, adding that Khodorkovsky's potential release on bail after a March 25 hearing could only happen with the government's approval. "This will be a political decision," Amsterdam said, adding that resolution of the situation would take "many months."

In Berlin to drum up foreign support for his client's cause, Amsterdam said Germans had tremendous influence in Russia and should stand up to demand a fair trial.

Gerhard Schröder und Wladimir Putin

Putin (left) with German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder at a meeting in Moscow last year.

"We know how heroic Germany has been with regard to Iraq," Amsterdam said, referring to the German government's opposition to the U.S.-led war. "And yet with Putin there is a sensibility I can't even begin to describe."

Testing the rule of law in Russia

He added that Khodorkovsky was faced with the possibility of a conviction. "I think he's taking a terrible risk, but he's a Russian," Amsterdam said. "He didn't want to leave when everyone told him to leave."

While adding that Khodorkovsky saw his case as a test of the rule of law in Russia, Amsterdam said, "I don’t believe the rule of law is anywhere near this case."

Amsterdam also refuted claims by some that Khodorkovsky is a single case and not the sign of the Kremlin's crackdown on businesses in Russia. "These types of things are viral," he said, pointing to Monday's announcement by Russia's interior ministry that international accounting firm Deloitte and Touche was accused of tax evasion.

"There are no one-offs," he said, adding that he believed others were vulnerable to similar prosecution as well.

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