Moscow court upholds Khodorkovsky conviction

May 24, 2011 - 8:29 AM

MOSCOW (AP) — A Moscow appeals court has upheld the second conviction of oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky, but it also reduced his prison sentence by one year.

Tuesday's decision means that Khodorkovsky will remain in prison until 2016, a total of 13 years.

He was convicted in December of stealing oil from his own company and laundering the proceeds, a ruling that drew strong international condemnation.

Khodorkovsky was seen as a political threat to Vladimir Putin, who was president in 2003 when Khodorkovsky was arrested and remains Russia's most powerful leader now that he is prime minister.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

MOSCOW (AP) — Oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky on Tuesday poured scorn on a Moscow court as it was hearing his appeal of a second conviction that will keep him in prison until 2017.

Khodorkovsky, who was convicted in December of stealing oil from his own company and laundering the proceeds, said a "venomous Stalinist spider" was behind the verdict.

It was a bold attack against the very court that is deciding his fate: The assistant of the judge who handed down the conviction in the lower court later claimed that the verdict was actually written by judges at the Moscow City Court, which is hearing the appeal.

"From which dusty basement did they dig out the venomous Stalinist spider who wrote that gibberish?" Khodorkovsky asked, visibly agitated.

December's ruling drew international condemnation of Russia's judicial system. Khodorkovsky was seen as a political threat to Vladimir Putin, who was president in 2003 when Khodorkovsky was arrested and remains Russia's most powerful leader now that he is prime minister.

The Moscow City Court began hearing Khodorkovsky's appeal Tuesday and was expected to deliver its ruling the same day. The 47-year-old is already serving an eight-year term on similar but seemingly contradictory charges.

Khodorkovsky, pacing around the glass and steel defendant's cage in a black T-shirt, told the court that rejecting the appeal would amount to a crime.

"You have to either stop this shame ... or join the criminals that spit on the law," he said.

President Dmitry Medvedev succeeded Putin in 2008 on promises to strengthen the rule of law, but his efforts have had little effect.

"The president is going to have to make a choice," Khodorkovsky said. "What does he, Russia, need more: the rule of law or the opportunity for illegal reprisals?"

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Nataliya Vasilyeva contributed to this report.