On Tuesday, November 2, the second show trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky concluded amidst calls from human rights groups, Russian intellectuals, and celebrities and government leaders from the West, for an end to what is clearly a case of political persecution that has made a mockery of the rule of law and has turned the Russian judiciary into an instrument of political revenge.
The record of abusive conduct against Mr. Khodorkovsky and his co-defendant Platon Lebedev in the course of this legal battle is lengthy and pervasive. But at its heart, this case is not only about the law. It is about freedom and individual rights, which laws are meant to protect, and whether the state has the power to rob, threaten, and jail, those who dare to challenge it.
In his eloquent “last words” to the court, Mikhail Khodorkovsky said “They turned us, ordinary people, into symbols of a struggle against lawlessness. This is not our achievement. It is theirs.” It is a shameful achievement and one that demands a strong and unyielding response from people of goodwill around the world.
In 2005 when the first verdict against Mikhail Khodorkovsky was pronounced, Congressman Tom Lantos stood on the steps of the Moscow courthouse to denounce the verdict and to warn that it symbolized both an individual miscarriage of justice and an ominous sign of Russia’s slide back toward authoritarianism. As we await the verdict of this 2nd trial, the world must again speak out against lawlessness, creeping tyranny, and fear.
In his last remarks Mikhail said “I am not at all an ideal person, but I am a person with an idea” What is that idea? “…that Russia will after all become a country of freedom and of the law…where supporting opposition parties will cease being a cause for reprisals…where human
rights will no longer depend on the mood of the Tsar. Good or evil”
This is an idea worth fighting for, not only for the people of Russia, but for people everywhere. That is why the Lantos Foundation joins with so many others - human rights activists, government leaders, and millions of ordinary people - in calling for the release of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and a return to integrity and rule of law for the people of Russia.