Jailed former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky's Israeli partners fear for his life, they said Tuesday at a press conference marking the two-year anniversary of his arrest for tax evasion and fraud charges.
Leonid Nevzlin, Mikhail Brundo and Vladimir Dubov said Khodorkovsky had not been able to meet with his lawyers, had been damaged by intentional exposure to sick fellow inmates, and the appeals process for his case was manipulated to preclude him running for political office.
They also decried the treatment of the ailing Platon Lebedev, Khodorkovsky's business partner.
"We're afraid that they might make a decision to physically eliminate them, which is very easy to do in the prison camps, because whatever's done there can be hushed up," said Nevzlin of Khodorkovsky, who in June was sentenced to eight years behind bars for tax evasion and fraud and who last month was sent to a Siberian prison. "Everything that Putin could do to isolate them from people and put their lives in danger and create every complication in their appeals was done."
Nevzlin, relying on information from Khodorkovsky's friends, family and business associates in Russia, said the prisoner is worried about possible attempts on his life.
The businessmen see Khodorkovsky's prosecution as stemming from his role in opposition politics preceding his arrest.
The trio, all recent immigrants, also face fraud charges in Russia. They obliquely joked that they didn't know the exact accusations, since the Russian authorities wouldn't allow them to see their files.
Nevzlin told The Jerusalem Post he had raised the issue of Khodorkovsky making aliya twice in the months prior to his arrest.
"He feels himself responsible for Russia's future," he said of Khodorkovsky's decision to stay put.
He added that since Khodorkovsky isn't fully Jewish he didn't necessarily have a strong connection to State of Israel.
The real error was done on Putin's side, he told the Post, adding: "It was the great mistake of Putin to do what he did. I think Khodorkovsky will be okay."
At the press conference, Nevzlin said corruption in Russia had reached unprecedented heights and political leaders only cared about getting rich.
"Their aim is very simple," he said. "It is to attain power at all costs, not to hold power for the sake of power itself, but for the sake of attaining wealth and attaining riches."
Dubov, a lawyer, also attacked the threats and intimidation - and worse - that have been visited on Khodorkovsky's defense lawyers.
The non-Russian lawyer Robert Amsterdam "had an easy way out," he said. "He was simply exiled from Russia."
According to Brundo, "The Yukos case was a show case" and "the persecution of Khodorkovsky is part of the program... to use oil resources to further Putin's agenda, which is to blackmail the West."
While Nevzlin acknowledged that the West was not about to intervene in Russia's internal politics, he did question why industrialized countries would allow the G8 to be held in Russia when it wasn't a democratic state.
Nevzlin brushed aside criticism that he and other wealthy Russian immigrants were trying to manipulate the Israeli political system with their wealth.
"I can do whatever I can do in any democratic country," he said.
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