Free Russia's Political Prisoners

The Committee to Free Khodorkovsky & Lebedev is a volunteer group of individuals organizing independently to raise awareness of human rights violations in Russia and call for the immediate release of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev.

Platon Lebedev: “I’d like to thank everyone for their sympathy, concern and support”

2014 February 3
by Jeremy

 

30 January 2014

Source: HRO.org (info)

The press-centre of the former political prisoners in the Yukos case has published a statement by Platon Lebedev. Earlier the Supreme Court of the RF reduced the sentence of former head of Menatep Platon Lebedev to the time he has already served, and ordered his release from the penal colony.

Statement by Platon Lebedev:

“Dear friends,

After nearly 11 years, or more exactly 10 years, 6 months and almost 23 days, I have come home. The main reason why this terrible counting of days has stopped at last lies in your faithful and sincere efforts. I have no doubt about it.

I’d like to thank everyone who, over such a long period of time, sympathized, felt concern, took an interest and supported me.

Thank you for attending those court hearings (physicists know that sometimes the mere observation of a system can change the very nature of the system). Thank you for trying to make sense of the schizophrenic accusations on the Internet, for writing me warm letters to my place of imprisonment, for protesting on the streets and debating at home.

Did we win? We definitely didn’t let them defeat us! However, there’s still much to do together. In fact, it all still lies ahead.

Yours most sincerely,

Platon Lebedev”

Source: Press Centre of Mikhail Khodorkovsky & Platon Lebedev

Platon Lebedev: “I think I will surprise you in time”

2014 January 30
by Jeremy

Posted on January 30, 2014

Below is an English translation of Platon Lebedev’s first, exclusive, interview after his release from prison.  It was broadcast on REN TV, the Russian TV station, on Saturday, January 25, 2014.

At the start of the piece, Platon Lebedev is looking through the window of his house at a mountain ash tree and recollects that it was just a  small bush at the time of his arrest.

- Is everything at home the way it was?.. (asks the interviewer whilst they both survey the room)

- No, well, some small details here have probably changed.  To be honest, this is my first opportunity to look it over, the same as you.  I haven’t had a chance for a particularly close look yet.  That painting over there’s the same.  The television is definitely different, and they’ve taken the table away someplace.

The narrator then explains that they filmed Platon Lebedev at his home, in the Moscow region, where he had arrived just a few hours previously. There wasn’t a lot of time to conduct the interview  – it was literally two hours to air time and they were trying to make it on time.  And besides, they didn’t want to keep Platon Lebedev away from his family for too long.  They were also present in the house.

- How many hours ago, exactly, did they release you?

- I got out sometime just a bit after ten…

- That means it hasn’t been 24 hours yet?

- No.

- You never did ask for a pardon, unlike Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and why not?

- It was already de facto pointless.

- Was your release connected with some understanding that was agreed during the negotiations for the release of Mikhail Khodorkovsky?  Or was it just a coincidence, as the saying goes, in time and space?

- It may not be quite right to use the word “understanding”.  The question here is, are we actually free?  I will explain, for now, we have been released from prison, but from the point of view of being able to take decisions about life in the future, our hands are still tied.

- Everybody’s worried for some reason, what’s next?

- Next we’re going to try to live and work.

- Are you going to try to live here in Russia, or will you leave?

You can’t be so black or white – either we stay or we leave.  I was involved in international business.   I was the director of an international investment holding company.  And by virtue of my life and the line of my work I was always both in Russia and overseas.  And besides, I enjoyed being able to travel with family to relax not only in Russia, but beyond the confines of Russia.  The same thing is true for my work.  Now Khodorkovsky and I simply don’t have such a free choice of opportunities.  I would say it like this:  time will soon tell. For now, I’ve just come out of prison and I was given only one document – my Russian identity card.

-You haven’t got a passport that you can travel with?   

What kind of travel document could I have after being in prison for eleven years?  So for now we’ll get ourselves a good night’s sleep, catch our breath a bit and get our bearings, and then the procedure for getting a foreign travel passport will slowly and gradually get going.  And after that we’ll see:  will they give me a foreign travel passport…?  Only after I get the answer will I be able to give you an answer to the question of whether  there’s even a chance to travel abroad, for whatever reason.

So  for now you can’t even meet with your former business partner and your friend Mikhail Khodorkovsky – he can’t travel to Russia, and you can’t travel across the border because you haven’t got a passport.

I can’t for now.  There is a possibility that they won’t give me a foreign travel passport.  Or they could even give me a passport but then refuse to let me travel across the border because, as you mentioned earlier,  I’m a debtor.

So have you had a chance to speak with Mikhail Khodorkovsky yet?

He was probably one of the first to call me.  His voice was quivering with excitement, he wasn’t so much talking as shouting.  He was very happy.  One of the topics we happened to discuss was when we’ll be able to give each other a hug and get together.

And that’s exactly what’s not clear…

You know, we tell everybody that we’re friends, but to each other we’re almost brothers.  Now if they’d let me leave, for example, at least just to get a check-up – I don’t like to talk about this, but I’ve got some aches and pains that have accumulated over a term like that and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get some of them looked at – maybe in the middle of February, at the end of February, the two of us will try to cross paths someplace.

You were a very rich person before your arrest, but now, are you a comfortably off person?

I would say it like this:  I’ve been a comfortably off person for a long time already.  Since the beginning of the ’90s, I believe, if memory serves me correctly.  They bankrupted YUKOS, and the bulk of the wealth disappeared.

Well, can you afford not to have to work?

Probably not, but we’ll see.  Although in 11 years I’ve accumulated so many debts to my wife, my children, and everybody really, that I’m going to have to work, looking over my shoulder of course, in order to pay back these debts as well.  My youngest daughter’s age is practically the same as the length of my term.  And for a father to meet with a child in prison…  I saw Dasha for the first time – if we don’t count when she was really small, because I did at least have a chance to give her a bath before the arrest – anyway, the first time I saw her was out beyond the Arctic Circle, in Kharp.  They brought in this little bundle.  True, she did already know how to talk and actually saw papa for the first time.

And now <Dasha> is here?

Yes.  She’s out skating.  Everything’s normal.

Did she recognize you?

Of course.

And the older children?

My older daughter and son were in Velsk, we all came back to Moscow together from there.

Have you discussed your plans with your family?  Mikhail Khodorkovsky has said in no uncertain terms that he’s not going to get involved in politics, but that he will be involved in civic activity.  Have you discussed big plans like that together with the family, or is it still too early to talk about this?

If the authorities are not going to restrict my movements, that means I’ll still be able to do the things I know how to do – which also means that I’ll most likely be doing what I did before.

Business?

Okay, let’s call it business.

But not politics?

In our country successful business is always politics.

But not pure politics?

No, I don’t find pure politics interesting.  But all in all, I think I’m going to surprise you in time.  But this will have to be the topic of a separate conversation.

Thank you for your support

2014 January 27
by Jeremy

Thank you for you all your support for Mikhail Khodorkovsky over the past ten years.

As a result of your support, Khodorkovsky was granted a presidential pardon on Dec. 20. 2013.

Please check back here soon for new advocacy actions aimed at contributing to the positive civil society of Russia.

Release of Platon Lebedev

2014 January 24
by Maren

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL NEWS FLASH

23 January 2014

Russia: Platon Lebedev release welcome but falls short of justice


As the start of the Sochi Olympics approaches, the Russian authorities have decided to release another prisoner of conscience (POC) in a move that can be seen as politically expedient, Amnesty International said today.

The Russian Supreme Court took a decision with immediate effect today to reduce the sentence of businessman Platon Lebedev to the time already spent in prison. His sentence was due to expire in May 2014.

“Platon Lebedev was confined to prison as a result of a deeply flawed and politically motivated trial. Russia’s Supreme Court’s decision gives freedom to Platon Lebedev three months early, however it does not quash his conviction or remedy the injustice done to him” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

The decision to cut the sentence of Platon Lebedev follows the release, in December 2013, of his business associate and fellow POC Mikhail Khodorkovski under a presidential pardon. A number of other prisoners of conscience were released at the same time under the latest amnesty law, including the Pussy Riot punk group members Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and a handful of Bolotnaya case detainees. There are still prisoners of conscience behind bars in Russia.

“The piecemeal releases of people who were imprisoned for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression is no substitute for an effective justice system,” said John Dalhuisen.

“The Russian authorities must release immediately and unconditionally all prisoners of conscience and remove the charges from those already at liberty.”

A Month After Release, Khodorkovsky Thanking Supporters, Planning for Future

2014 January 20
by Jeremy

A Month After Release, Khodorkovsky Thanking Supporters, Planning for Future

Copyright: CDU/CSU-BundestagsfraktionOne month ago to the day, Mikhail Khodorkovsky was released. After more than ten years of unjust imprisonment, he was, finally, a free man. To all of you who have sent messages of support, followed the case down the years and ensured that he was never forgotten…thank you!
Khodorkovsky is free. The struggle for his values continues and your support remains as important as ever.
“THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS NOW: FREEDOM, FREEDOM, FREEDOM!”
Khodorkovsky touched down on the tarmac of Berlin’s Shönefeld Airport on Friday December 20. He was met by former German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who negotiated his release. A whirlwind few days followed of long-awaited family reunions, interviews and press conferences.
Marina Philippovna and Boris Moiseevich were reunited with their son. Pavel Khodorkovsky was reunited with his father, but not before Mikhail hugged the granddaughter he had never met. “My daughter just ran out to him. She got the first hug and the first kiss – but that was cool with me,” said Pavel.
“After 10 years, it‘s an unbelievable feeling of freedom” Khodorkovsky told Yevgenia Albats of the New Times in his first interview. “The most important thing is now: Freedom, freedom, freedom!”
Khodorkovsky emphasised that he will dedicate his efforts toward helping other political prisoners in Russia, including former Yukos colleagues Platon Lebedev and Alexei Pichugin.
KHODORKOVSKY SPEAKS – THE WORLD TUNES IN
Just 36 hours after leaving the penal colony in Segezha, Khodorkovsky arrived at the Berlin Wall Museum at Checkpoint Charlie, where hundreds of photographers and journalists from the world’s media crammed in.
READ THE FULL ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF KHODORKOVSKY’S BERLIN PRESS CONFERENCE
Khodorkovsky expressed his gratitude to all those who had played a role in securing his release but pointed out that his release was not the end of the story: “You should not regard me as a symbol that there aren’t any political prisoners left in Russia anymore,” he said, “I ask you to regard me as a symbol that when civil society wants to accomplish something, its efforts are capable of bringing about the release of even those people that nobody ever imagined could be released.”
Just prior to the press conference he gave an exclusive briefing to a select group of journalists, where he spoke “without bitterness or anger.
SUPREME COURT TO HEAR PLATON LEBEDEV APPEAL ON JANUARY 23
As Khodorkovsky made clear, although he is free other political prisoners remain behind bars in Russia. On January 23, the Supreme Court of Russia will hear an appeal from Khodorkovsky’s friend and business partner Platon Lebedev. On December 25, 2013, the Chairman of the Supreme Court forwarded the appeals of Khodorkovsky’s & Lebedev’s defence teams for review by the Presidium of the Supreme Court.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky commented:
“I welcome the decision of the Supreme Court. I hope very much that the bureaucratic procedures won’t be too lengthy and will let Platon Lebedev gain his freedom sooner.”
Platon Lebedev commented:
“The only lawful decision would lead to freedom.”
KHODORKOVSKY THANKS NGOS; PAYS TRIBUTE TO HIS FRIEND & LAWYER YURI SCHMIDT
Copyright: Heinrich-Böll-StiftungAfter visits to Switzerland, where he and his wife accompanied their twin sons to school, and Israel, where he met with friends and former colleagues, Khodorkovsky returned to Berlin. He met with the Deputy Head of the Conservative Faction in the Bundestag and outgoing Russia Coordinator of the German government, Andreas Schockenhoff to express his gratitude for his support and restated his commitment to “using all the means at my disposal to help political prisoners and solidify the rule of law in Russia.” Khodorkovsky also met with MP Gernot Erler of the Social Democratic Party, who will be appointed as new Russia coordinator at the end of January.
During his stay in Berlin Khodorkovsky also met with Amnesty International and further NGOs to thank for their support around the world.  On January 19, Khodorkovsky attended a moving ceremony organized by the Heinrich-Boell-Foundation, at which he joined Arseny Roginsky from Memorial and German MP Marielusie Beck of the Green Party in paying tribute to the legendary Russian lawyer and human rights defender, Yuri Markovich Schmidt. Khodorkovsky underlined that the best way to continue Yuri Markovich’s mission is to support those who are unjustifiably imprisoned for their ideas and attitudes. Earlier this month, on the first anniversary of Schmidt’s death Khodorkovsky commemorated his friend and lawyer. “A year ago Yuri Markovich passed away,” he wrote. “We are to continue his work.”
READ A TRANSLATION OF KHODORKOVSKY’S TRIBUTE TO YURI SCHMIDT
As we pay tribute to those no longer with us, celebrate the freedom of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and call for the release of those still unjustly imprisoned, we appreciate your support on the long road ahead.

Happy New Year from Mikhail Khodorkovsky

2014 January 5
by Jeremy

Happy New Year from Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Posted on January 4, 2014

“Dear friends,

A New Year is coming.

For me, it is the first holiday in the past ten years that I will spend with my family, with my parents and my children.

This past year, all of you together helped me to get my Liberty, and I want to thank you for your support, your letters, comments and even your criticism.

I wish the best of health and happiness to all your near and dear ones, and let us strive for the truth and love to prevail over hatred and lies.

Happy New Year!

I embrace you all,

Yours truly, MBK.”

New Year Wishes From Platon Lebedev

2014 January 5
by Jeremy

New Year Wishes From Platon Lebedev

Dear friends,

I wish you a Happy New Year.

The coming year promises to be interesting, to say the least. I may be one of the first ones to find out what this coming year has in store, and then, I will tell you all about it.

I wish you all happiness and good luck!

Your Platon Lebedev

Mikhail Khodorkovsky freed after Vladimir Putin signs pardon

2013 December 20
by Jeremy

Daily Telegraph

Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky freed after Vladimir Putin signs decree pardoning him, says Interfax

By Roland Oliphant, Moscow and agencies

8:28AM GMT 20 Dec 2013

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, has been freed from his prison camp after receiving a pardon from Vladimir Putin.

“Around 12:20 pm (0820 GMT) Mikhail Khodorkovsky left the prison camp” in the town of Segezha in Karelia in northwestern Russian, a security source in Karelia told Interfax.

The Federal Service for the Execution of Punishment (FSIN) which runs Russia’s prisons issued a statement confirming that Khodorkovsky’s sentence had been terminated but not explicitly confirming he had walked free from the camp.

The decree, published on the Kremlin website earlier on Friday, read: “Guided by humanitarian principles, I decree that Mikhail Borisovich Khodorkovsky… should be pardoned and freed from any further punishment in the form of imprisonment. This decree comes into force from the day of its signing.”

The surprise announcement that Khodorkovsky would be released came after Mr Putin’s annual marathon press conference.

Khodorkovsky, who is widely viewed as Mr Putin’s arch enemy, joins a number of high-profile prisoners including Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina who will be released in an amnesty ahead of the February Games.

Vladimir Putin at his annual press conference on Thursday CREDIT: AP

The decree came a day after Mr Putin revealed he intended to sign a pardon dring an informal chat with journalists after his annual press conference.

Neither the decree nor Mr Putin’s comments on Thursday made any reference to Mr Khodorkovsky’s co-accused, Platon Lebedev, who is due to complete his own sentence for embezzlement and money laundering in May.

Lawyers for Mr Lebedev, a former CEO of Mr Khodorkovsky’s once-mighty Group Menatep, said he had “no intention” of appealing for a pardon – a step that requires admittance of guilt.

Khodorkovsky, who was due to complete his sentence in August, has hitherto refused to admit his guilt, and his legal team has tirelessly filed appeals on his behalf demanding that the decisions of the court that sentenced him be annulled.

The decision to appeal for clemency is a dramatic turn around and has sparked speculation that he was pressured into it by the security services.

The pardon followed rumours sparked by a Deputy Prosecutor that a third case against Yukos was being prepared – making the prospect of release even more distant.

Mr Putin on Thursday denied any knowledge of such a case, claiming he had heard the rumours but that he was “just a man observing [the work of the criminal justice system] from the outside.”

A report in the Kommersant newspaper on Friday suggested that Khodorkovsky had asked Mr Putin for the pardon under pressure from security services.

The former chief of Yukos oil company, once Russia’s richest man, had repeatedly said he would not ask Putin for pardon because it would be tantamount to admitting guilt.

Citing unnamed sources, Kommersant said representatives of Russia’s security service had recently spoken to Khodorkovsky.

They told him his cancer-stricken mother’s health was worsening and warned him about a possible third criminal case against him, the newspaper said.

“This conversation, which was conducted without lawyers, forced Mikhail Khodorkovsky to turn to the president,” said the newspaper.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky to be freed after Putin pardon

2013 December 19
by Jeremy

Financial Times

December 19, 2013  1:04 pm

Mikhail Khodorkovsky to be freed after Putin pardon

By Courtney Weaver in Moscow

Vladimir Putin will pardon Mikhail  Khodorkovsky, finally allowing one of Russia’s most famous prisoners to walk  free after more than a decade behind bars.

Mr Putin said he had come to his decision after receiving a letter from Mr  Khodorkovsky, a former oil tycoon, asking for clemency. However, a lawyer for Mr  Khodorkovsky told Russian news outlets he was not aware that his client had  asked for pardon.

 “According to relevant laws, Mikhail Borisovich had to [request pardon]. He  did not do this, but not too long ago he wrote this request,” Mr Putin told  journalists, referring to the oligarch by his patronymic.

“[Mr Khodorkovsky] has already spent more than 10 years in prison. That is a  serious punishment. In the letter he makes reference to humanitarian reasons  [for being freed]. He has a sick mother. And I believe that we can soon make the  decision and sign a decree granting him amnesty,” Mr Putin said.

Mr Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, was arrested  in 2003 on allegations  of tax evasion and fraud at his oil company Yukos.

However, his case has been widely seen as having political underpinnings  given the tycoon’s personal clashes with Mr Putin ahead of his arrest.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky sits in a defendant's cage

October 2013: He is Russia’s most famous prisoner, the former oligarch who  built Yukos oil and was seen at Davos and the White House – until he dared to  cross Vladimir Putin

Mr Putin’s announcement comes one day after the Russian government  granted amnesty to other prisoners whose cases had been criticised in the  west as politically motivated.

Under the new amnesty law, voted through on Wednesday, jailed members of the  female punk band Pussy Riot will be freed, as will Greenpeace activists who  protested on a drilling platform in Russia’s Arctic.

The decisions come less than two months before Russia  hosts the Winter Olympics. Moscow’s human rights record has been widely  criticised in recent months, particularly an anti-gay  law passed in June that prohibits “propaganda of non-traditional sexual  relations among minors”.

The US, German and French presidents have all declined to attend the  games.

Ten Years of Injustice Commemorated in Berlin

2013 November 1
by Jeremy

In Berlin the Martin Gropius building was the location, during the evening of Friday 25th October, for readings of extracts from Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s prison writings, translated into German, of correspondence between Khodorkovsky and writers Lyudmila Ulitskaya and Boris Akunin, and a number of statements accusing the authorities of botching foreign and economic policy and persecuting activists.

Burghart Klaußner reading from selected writings of Mikhail Khodorkovsky

The readings, held last week around the world as a part of a series of solidarity events commemorating the 10-year anniversary of Khodorkovsky´s arrest, were organized by the Berlin International Literature Festival and took place in Berlin, Paris, Moscow and other cities, with more than 80 international writers participating, including Nobel literature laureates Herta Muller, Elfriede Jelinek, Mario Vargas Llosa and John M. Coetzee. In Moscow, the event was held at the Sakharov Center.

After a short introductory film with quotations from a letter by the imprisoned Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, the readings in the Gropius building were given by Burghart Klaußner whose lively style imparted a sense of drama to the written exchanges. There followed a panel discussion with Ms Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (outgoing Federal Minister of Justice) and Ms Kerstin Holm (former correspondent of the FAZ in Moscow) on the panel, moderated by Manfred Sapper, editor-in-chief of the magazine “Osteuropa. A Q&A session concluded the event.

One of the most noteworthy subjects of discussion was the recent harassment, by the Russian authorities, of scientists who delivered critical expert opinion about the second Yukos trial on behalf of the Human Rights Council of then-President Medvedev. In an official Russian letter of request, which was rejected by the German Ministry of Justice, one of the consultants, the German legal scientist Prof. Luchterhandt, is reproached with having received monetary payment from Khodorkovsky. It seems quite possible that Russian activities of that kind may portend yet another attempt to fabricate new evidence against the former Yukos CEO whose prison term runs out next year.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his co-accused Platon Lebedev are recognized by Amnesty International as prisoners of conscience. On the tenth anniversary of the arrest the human rights group published a statement calling for their immediate release.

31st October 2013                                                       Jeremy Putley, Maren Koop