The Guardian publishes an English translation of a thought piece from former Yukos Oil CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who has spent the last ten years in jail on embezzlement charges that are widely believed to be politically motivated. Khodorkovsky writes that heroes in Russia today are simply honest people, who have refused to slander others and are imprisoned for their integrity.
Khodorkovsky claims that dozens of innocent people are languishing in jail or have been forced out of Russia because of the Yukos affair. He adds that no-one is safe from corrupt officials who seek to punish political opponents and whistle-blowers with imprisonment. The article references the Magnitsky case, stating that even those who have died in pre-trial detention do not escape the cruelty of the system, and are instead put on trial and convicted even after death. Khodorkovsky believes that even if individuals such as Navalny are released pending appeal, the problem remains in that the Russian courts serve only the political wishes of the authorities, rather than any semblance of justice.
Khodorkovsky argues that Navalny’s conviction and subsequent release on bail makes little difference in the scale of corruption in Russia, where critics of the Putin regime are frequently found guilty of criminal offences. He draws parallels with the Stalinist and Khrushchev/Brezhnev years, during which political opponents were derided as ordinary criminals, allowing the government to claim that Russia had no political prisoners.
The jailed businessman points out that the Russian government may well be shooting itself in the foot, as investors are increasingly turning away from a country in which those in power manipulate the courts to their own advantage. He highlights the acquittal rate of around one in 700 for district-level courts, implying that those who stand up for their rights will find the authorities deeply unsympathetic.
Khodorkovsky concludes that until the public sees the injustice of the trials of Navalny, Bolotnaya and others, the Russian authorities will simply continue to lock away its critics, whipping up charges with little basis in reality. Khodorkovsky describes the fearlessness of outspoken opponents as patriotism, calling for an end to indifference and unbelief.
Read the full article here.