Statement from Katrina Lantos Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice
“The conviction and sentencing of Mikhail Khodorkovsky on false and absurd charges is disturbing evidence of a return to the ‘bad old days’ in Russia. Khodorkovsky is a victim of a political prosecution directed by Vladimir Putin in an effort to punish and silence one of his most fearless and forceful critics.
Many of us had high hopes that President Medvedev would take meaningful steps to reverse the decline in respect for human rights and the rule of law that has been so evident in Russia in recent years. Unfortunately the outcome of the Khodorkovsky/Lebedev trial has dashed those hopes. Furthermore the Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement that outsiders should ‘mind their own business’ in the Khodorkovsky matter is reminiscent of the Soviet days when efforts to uphold international human rights commitments were attacked as an intrusion on Russia’s sovereignty.
The Lantos Foundation calls on governments, human rights organizations, and individuals around the world speak up against this legal travesty. Putin needs to know that while he may be able to control the Russian judiciary, he cannot protect himself from being properly convicted in the court of public opinion for this clear abuse of power. The verdict of history will find that Mikhail Khodorkovsky was a man who came to recognize the inestimable value of true democracy, human rights, and transparency, and he was willing to put his freedom and his life on the line to defend these values. As for Vladimir Putin, unless he changes course, his reputation and legacy—like those of others before him—will be found on the ash heap of history.”