Medvedev criticised over Khodorkovsky

MOSCOW: Russian liberals Friday called for President Dmitry Medvedev to free jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and criticized him for a lack of progress in the case during his presidential term.

Speaking at a press conference in Moscow attended by Khodorkovsky's parents and lawyers, liberal politician and former world chess champion Garry Kasparov harshly criticized Medvedev.

He said any hopes that Medvedev would take a softer line on the Khodorkovsky case after taking over from Vladimir Putin as president last year had evaporated.

"Few people realized that Putin would actually be playing the role of good cop," Kasparov said at a news conference marking six years since Khodorkovsky was arrested on October 25, 2003.

"There hasn't been any progress in the case of Khodorkovsky and (his former business partner Platon) Lebedev at all, in fact everything has got worse."

Khodorkovsky is serving an eight-year sentence for fraud and tax evasion. He is now facing a second trial on fresh charges of embezzling millions of tons of oil and money laundering that could see him jailed for another two decades.

Seven prominent activists including Lyudmila Alexeyeva, the chairwoman of Moscow Helsinki Group, signed a letter addressed to Medvedev calling for him to end the trial and free Khodorkovsky and Lebedev.

The letter also called for Medvedev to attend a court hearing so he could see a "full picture of the Russian justice system with all its flaws."

Svetlana Gannushkina, a member of the presidential council for civil society and human rights, said that the "absurdity of the trial is obvious to everyone," but questioned whether Medvedev will be able to halt the trial.

"I don't believe that Medvedev's support will save us today, I don't believe that this battle in the corridors of power, which we don't know much about, will end in our favour," she said.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin "hates Khodorkovsky personally," she said.