Source Pravda.Ru

Moscow court bans media at Khodorkovsky-Lebedev hearings

The Meshchansky court of Moscow launched the trial of former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Menatep head Platon Lebedev on Monday.

The court did not allow the broadcasting of the criminal proceedings, a RIA Novosti correspondent reports from the court house.

The court has received relevant statements from the president of the Fund for Glasnost and Journalists' Protection of the grani.ru Internet site. They asked the court to allow broadcasting the hearings and promised financial provision.

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev did not mind the broadcasting but the prosecutor asked the court not to meet this request.

"I am strongly opposed to this because such statements are not based on the procedural criminal law. Besides, the equipment and the broadcasting will distract the participants in the proceedings," public prosecutor Dmitry Shokhin said.

The court ruled to include these statements in the case but turned down the request.

"The court has no technical opportunities for broadcasting, and it has no right to use any external assistance because courts are financed by the federal budget according to the law," Judge Irina Kolesnikova said.

The criminal case also contains medical reports on the condition of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, provided by the detention centre on the court's request.

The court also included cassation rulings of the Moscow City Court on the decision of the Meshchansky Court to leave Khodorkovsky and Lebedev in custody.

Yuri Shmidt, lawyer of the former Yukos CEO, earlier told reporters that during the trial, the prosecutor's office would first bring forward charges against the accused and then substantiate its position in court. "As far as I know, the prosecutors have 150 eyewitnesses on this case," said the lawyer. He suggested that the court proceedings could last four months at least.

According to the Prosecutor General's Office, as chairman of the Menatep board, Khodorkovsky and president of this bank Platon Lebedev and other people organised an illegal seizure of 20% of shares in the open joint stock company Apatit to the sum of over $283 million in 1994.

Moreover, Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are accused of tax evasion and embezzlement as Yukos major shareholders and basically leaders of this company in 1999-2000.

According to the prosecutors, the sum of the damage caused by Khodorkovsky and Lebedev was over $1 billion.

Khodorkovsky is also accused of profit tax evasion and non-payment of insurance contributions to the Pension Fund to the sum of 53 million rubles (about $1.7 million) as an individual in 1998-1999.

Another accused person in the Khodorkovsky-Lebedev case is Andrei Krainov, former director general of the Volna closed joint stock company.

Khodorkovsky was detained on October 25, 2003 at Tolmachevo airport, Novosibirsk, and brought to Moscow on the same day where the Basmanny Court sanctioned his arrest. Khodorkovsky is pleading not guilty. On November 3, he tendered resignation as Yukos CEO.