Controversial court aide Natalya Vasilyeva has produced what she claims is the “original” verdict in the Khodorkovsky case.
A day after being slapped down by Russia’s investigative committee, which found no substance in her claims that trial judge Viktor Danilkin had been pressured to reach the right conclusions, she returned with what she regards as concrete proof.
Her claim of court-room pressures is not new, the alternative paperwork is.
And while it does not offer any pledges to exonerate ex-Yukos boss Khodorkovsky and his colleague Platon Lebedev it proposes a sentence four years shorter than was ultimately handed down.
Vasilyeva’s whistleblowing claims had been poo - poohed by the Investigative Committee after a round of robust questioning and it looked like Vasilyeva, at least in official eyes, was discredited, despite passing a lie test in February.
But the physical appearance of this “new” verdict, published on Openinform, could make her claim stronger. She says they came into her hands by accident, along with some other signed for documents.
The page specifying the lighter sentence has been marked with three exclamation marks and the offending paragraph crossed out.
“In accordance with part 3, article 69 of the Criminal Code for multiple offences partially combining the sentence already served, the sentence of 9 (nine) years 6 (six) months imprisonment is to be conferred upon Khodorkovsky M.B,” says the rival sentence. Not 13.5 years, as finally handed down from the bench.
Vasiliyeva echoed the defense team’s claims that the second, harsher sentence had been handed down to Danilkin and the Khamovnichesky district court from a third party. According to Vasiliyeva the author was at the Moscow City Court.
The Investigative Committee is not hurrying to pass judgment on Vasiliyeva’s latest bombshell, although it does point out some potential bones of contention.
“There are no signatures or handwritten notes which would identify authorship,” Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told Kommersant. “So we are definitely going to check up on the authenticity of the document.”
It may fail to lend weight to the probe into Danilkin and claims that he succumbed to pressure.
Among the flaws picked up by Vasilyeva’s critics are the fact Danilkin typically uses a different font and the official verdict is widely available online – and could easily be tampered with to create an apparent alternative.
A written statement from Khodorkovsky did not touch on the latest developments, according to reports in four newspapers in Europe and the US.
But it did launch a further attack on both Western and Russian leaders.
He accused the West of putting good relations with Moscow ahead of basic values, and also restated his claim that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had “designated me his personal enemy”.