During his nearly three decades of service in Congress, Tom Lantos, the only survivor of the Holocaust ever elected to Congress, became one of the world’s most respected defenders of human rights. Congressman Lantos knew an outrageous injustice when he saw one and that is why, four years ago, Tom Lantos flew to Moscow at the end of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s trial to protest the pre-determined and completely unjust verdict of “guilty.” Mr. Khodorkovsky has spent the last four years in prison in Siberia and now faces a new sham “trial,” in which the government is making a mockery of Russia’s legal system in order to achieve its goal of keeping Mr. Khodorkovsky in prison for at least two more decades. Tom Lantos devoted his life to fighting against abuses of human rights around the world and that is why he took on Mr. Khodorkovsky’s case as one of the most egregious examples of abuse and government misconduct.
This “trial” points out once again that the ‘rule of law’ does not exist in Russia. Mr. Khodorkovsky has stated that he will not focus on the politics of his current ‘trial.’ But the Lantos Foundation cannot in good conscience ignore them.
No crime has been committed by Mr. Khodorkovsky.
Quite the contrary.
Mr. Khodorkovsky continues to be the target and victim of a politically-motivated government campaign to punish him for his support of democratic political parties in Russia; his backing of civil-society groups dedicated to internet education, a free press and civic education; and, perhaps most troubling to his enemies, his ownership and management of the YUKOS Oil Company. Under his leadership, the company introduced Western business practices and policies that threatened to undermine the Kremlin’s control of Russia’s oil and gas resources, which were being used to enrich corrupt government officials and further Russia’s geo-political aims.
By keeping Mr. Khodorkovsky in jail and putting him on trial again, on charges that have no basis in fact, the Russian government is perpetuating a grave injustice and demonstrating that Russia’s courts and judicial system are clearly being used – and abused – in order to punish the government’s opponents and stifle peaceful and legitimate dissent.
The Lantos Foundation was founded to further the work of Tom Lantos after his death. There is no case more emblematic of human rights and rule of law violations than is the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
This trial, and Mr. Khodorkovsky’s continued persecution, has been called a “litmus test” of Russian President Medvedev’s promise to end “legal nihilism” in Russia. We call upon the Russian government to ensure that justice is served by ending this spurious trial immediately. And we call upon the nations and individuals of the world to rally to Mr. Khodorkovsky’s defense.