Protests as verdict is delayed for Khodorkovsky

MOSCOW — A Russian judge on Wednesday postponed the long-awaited verdict in the second trial of jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a case that has come to define Russia under Vladimir Putin.
A court spokeswoman said Judge Viktor Danilkin gave no reason for postponing the reading of the verdict, which is now set to begin Dec. 27.Hundreds of Khodorkovsky supporters rallied outside the courthouse, holding up signs urging the judge to "show courage" or appealing to President Dmitry Medvedev to free himself from Putin's hold and follow up on promises to improve Russia's legal system.
Khodorkovsky, 47, was Russia's richest man when he was arrested in 2003 and then convicted of underpaying taxes on the profits from his Yukos oil company. The politically driven case was seen as punishment for daring to challenge Putin's political and economic power, in part by funding opposition parties in parliament.
With Khodorkovsky's eight-year prison sentence coming to an end, he and his partner Platon Lebedev were hit with new charges of stealing all the oil Yukos produced from 1998 to 2003 and laundering the proceeds.
Numerous witnesses, including current and former government officials, testified during the 20-month trial that the charges were improbable if not absurd.
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