Judge's aide says Khodorkovsky verdict "dictated"

Mon Feb 14, 2011 5:16pm GMT

By Steve Gutterman

MOSCOW (Reuters) - An aide to the judge who sentenced jailed ex-tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky to six more years in prison in December said on Monday that the verdict was written by higher-level members of the judiciary.

Trial judge Viktor Danilkin and other court officials swiftly denied the claim, by Danilkin's aide Natalya Vasilyeva, which reinforced Kremlin critics' suspicions that Khodorkovsky's guilty verdict and sentence were dictated from above.

Vasilyeva's remarks added to the intrigue surrounding the December 30 verdict in the former Yukos oil company CEO's second trial, which drew vocal criticism from Western governments and reinforced their concerns about the rule of law in Russia.

Vasilyeva, who also acts as spokeswoman for Moscow's Khamovniki district court, said the lengthy verdict Danilkin read out in late December was written not by him but by judges from the Moscow City Court, a federal appeals court.

"I know with absolutely certainty that the verdict was brought from the Moscow City Court. And that this verdict was written by judges on the criminal appeals bench -- that is, the Moscow City Court," she told Internet news site gazeta.ru.

Vasilyeva said she was told who had written the verdict but she did not reveal the names of any judges or other sources.

Danilkin denied Vasilyeva's claim and indicated he might sue for libel over the remarks, Russian media reported.

Moscow City Court spokeswoman Anna Usachyova also denied the claim and suggested that it was aimed to overturn the verdict.   Continued...

<p>Jailed Russian former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky stands in the defendants' cage during a court session in Moscow December 30, 2010. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov</p>
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