Russian Activists Welcome President's Comments About Khodorkovskiy

The international human rights organization Human Rights Watch believes that Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev's statement about former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskiy is "momentous", as the Moscow City Court will hear an appeal against his conviction on 24 May, Russian news agency Interfax reported on 18 May.

"The president's statement just before the appeal hearings can be regarded as momentous," deputy head of the Moscow bureau of Human Rights Watch Tatyana Lokshina told Interfax on 18 May.

"I absolutely agree with President Medvedev that Khodorkovskiy's release from jail is not dangerous to society. We would very much like if Khodorkovskiy is released," she said.

"This is not the only issue on which our organization agrees with President Medvedev. We welcome many of his words. The problem is that often, unfortunately, they do not translate into real action," Lokshina said.

Leader of the movement For Human Rights Lev Ponomarev believes that Medvedev's statement that Khodorkovskiy is not dangerous to society may be a signal to the court.

"This statement could be interpreted as a signal to the court, as an appeal to judge in good conscience," Ponomarev told Interfax.

According to the human rights activists, the statement "gives some freedom to honest judges".

Ponomarev also said it was possible that the statement had been made by Medvedev to promote his image of a liberal politician.

"In this case, Medvedev said this to preserve the image of a man more liberal than Putin. This theory is quite possible," he added.

For his part, co-chairman of the Right Cause party Leonid Gozman believes that, by his statement about Khodorkovskiy, Medvedev again reminded everybody that "he had distanced himself from this process (Khodorkovskiy's case) a long time ago and that this was not his decision".

"The president shown once again that he does not like that... However, so far the president has been unable to exercise his right to pardon, but this statement is already a kind of promise," Gozman said.

However, he does not expect that Khodorkovskiy will be pardoned by the head of state in the near future.

"If, for whatever reason, the president has not yet made this decision, why should we expect that these reasons or factors will disappear in future?" Gozman said.

Gozman said he was disappointed that the president had not given a clear answer to the question about his presidential ambitions.

"I am extremely disappointed that he refused to answer questions about his election plans, although the place and the occasion were ideal for such an announcement," Gozman said

In his opinion, there may be two reasons for this: either "the question has already been resolved in favour of Putin, or it has not been resolved yet and the president is not ready to present it to the citizens," Gozman said.

People who are not dangerous to society should not be held in custody, Khodorkovskiy's lawyer Vadim Klyuvgant told the Russian Legal and Judicial Information News Agency (RAPSI), as RIA Novosti reported on 18 May. Klyuvgant was commenting on the statement about Khodorkovskiy made by Medvedev at a news conference in Skolkovo on 18 May.

Klyuvgant said he supported the president's view.

"But the question arises: how is it possible that a non-dangerous person is in jail?" Klyuvgant said, adding that "only people dangerous to society must be held in custody". Klyuvgant said that the law had been violated.

After Medvedev's statement that Khodorkovskiy's release from jail is not dangerous to society, Khodorkovskiy's lawyers are expecting the president to take the next logical step, Khodorkovskiy's lawyer Konstantin Rivkin told radio station Ekho Moskvy, according to Ekho Moskvy news agency.

"I would love these good words to turn into something positive in relation to people who have been sentenced to 14 years in prison for nothing," he said, noting that the president of the Russian Federation as a guarantor of the Constitution has quite a large arsenal of tools to do this.

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