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Ex-Russian oil tycoon facing new trial

MOSCOW (JTA) — Former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky is going on trial again and faces more than 20 years in prison.

Khodorkovsky, formerly the head of Yukos oil company and Russia’s richest man, and his business partner Platon Lebedev will be tried on charges of embezzlement and theft starting March 3. They were transferred Tuesday from a Siberian prison to Moscow.

Khodorkovsky, who is Jewish, was sentenced in 2005 to eight years in prison on charges of tax evasion and fraud. The trial stifled one of the most prominent anti-Kremlin voices at the time, and saw Yukos dismantled and sold off in state auctions.

With the new charges, the 45-year-old Khodorkovsky faces more than 20 years in prison in what Kremlin critics say is an attempt to detain the former tycoon permanently.

There had been hope that new Russian President Dmitry Medvedev would show leniency to the jailed oligarch when he took office last spring, but a request for parole in August was turned down on a technicality.

In a rare victory, a district court on Wednesday threw out a suit brought against Khodorkovsky by his former cellmate alleging that he had been sexually assaulted. The prisoner, Alexander Kuchma, slashed Khodorkovsky’s face with a knife in what he said was revenge for the assault.

Other former Yukos officials have faced charges ranging from tax fraud to murder, including former Yukos official Leonid Nevzlin, who fled to Israel to avoid the charges.

 

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