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Europe

Russian court postpones Khordokovsky verdict

A Moscow court has delayed its verdict on the politically charged case of a former oil tycoon. Mikhail Khodorkovsky is standing trial on charges of embezzling oil worth billions of dollars.

Yukos' former-CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Khodorkovsky is already serving an eight-year sentence

A Russian court has unexpectedly delayed the delivery of a verdict for imprisoned oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky - formerly Russia's richest man - who faces charges of stealing over 200 tons of oil from his own wells.

A court spokesperson did not give a reason for the delay, but said the verdict would now be handed down on December 27.

Lawyers for Khodorkovsky said they had not been informed of the decision to delay the verdict.

Since his incarceration, Khodorkovsky has been Russia's highest-profile inmate. The 47-year-old Khodorkovsky has been an outspoken critic of the Kremlin, and particularly of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The former oil billionaire, who was a major shareholder in failed petroleum company Yukos, is already serving an eight-year sentence for tax evasion, which is set to expire in 2011. If found guilty of the fresh charges, he faces an additional six years in prison.

If found innocent, his release could come just months ahead of the next Russian presidential election.

Khodorkovsky's year-and-a-half trial has been the subject of intense international scrutiny, particularly from the United States and Germany, which accuse the Kremlin of staging a political show trial with no legal basis.

Russia analysts have kept a close eye on the Khodorkovsky case, which they say could be a major indicator of President Dmitry Medvedev's progress in reforming the country's judicial system.

Author: Darren Mara (AFP, AP, Reuters)
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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