On June 26, Mikhail Khodorkovsky will mark his 50th birthday. Sadly, he will not be able to celebrate together with his family or friends. His tragic fate demonstrates not only the absence of an independent judiciary in Russia, but also the deep-rooted fear those in power have of any alternative coming from outside their narrow circle.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former Chief Executive of the Yukos Oil company, was arrested on October 25 2003. Since then, he has endured two trials that have been criticised by the international community as being emblematic of the problems of the rule of law and human rights in Russia.
Despite legal injustice and continued humiliation, the Russian authorities have failed to break Mikhail Khodorkovsky. He has become even stronger, morally, and clearer in his ideas of developing democracy in Russia. Indeed, Khodorkovsky has grown into a symbol of hope for a different, citizen-friendly and open Russia, something which could have started ten years ago already.
We, Members of the European Parliament, congratulate Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his family on today’s important jubilee. We are convinced that his difficult and consistent fight for transparency and justice has not been in vain and will finally bear fruit.
We are also convinced that Russia will not develop into a reliable rule-of-law society unless Mikhail Khodorkovsky receives justice and is freed without further delay. We confirm our continued commitment to do everything possible to ensure that Khodorkovsky’s rights are fully respected and restored.
Latvian MEP Inese Vaidere, EPP Group Coordinator in the EP Human Rights Subcommittee, said: "Ten years is a long time in a country's history, even more so in a person's life. I look forward to Mikhail Khodorkovsky's release as soon as possible. If Russia aspires to develop a closer and more productive relationship with the EU, it should release all political prisoners".
Estonian MEP Tunne Kelam commented: “Khodorkovsky’s fate and his treatment by the Russian authorities has become a litmus test for the state of Russian civil society and rule-of-law system. By rising above his personal tragedy, he has developed powerful moral potential. Ironically, it looks as if Mr Putin has himself become a moral prisoner of Khodorkovsky, which is why he is so afraid to set him free. At the same time, Khodorkovsky, while still physically in custody, has become much more free than Putin ever could be”.
The Khodorkovsky case, along with several other trials and judicial proceedings such as the Sergei Magnitsky, Anna Politkovskaya and Alexei Navalny cases, feature regularly in the European Parliament’s Resolutions and Reports, most recently in its Resolution of 13 June 2013 on the rule of law in Russia.