Counsel for Russian oligarch turns to EU

The Canadian lawyer representing imprisoned Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky is lobbying the EU in his latest bid to win the release of his client.

Robert Amsterdam, of two-partner firm Amsterdam & Peroff, embarked on the campaign ahead of this week’s visit to Moscow by Rapporteur Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, who has been appointed by the Council of Europe to investigate the case.

“The role of the European Community and its member states will determine the outcome of this case,” he said.

Khodorkovsky, the former chief executive of Russian oil giant Yukos, has been in pre-trial custody since October last year on charges of fraud and theft of state property. Fellow ex-Yukos executives Platon Lebedev and Alexei Pichugin have been in prison since last June.
Amsterdam insists Khodorkovsky’s detention is unlawful, and has claimed that Pichugin has been tortured while in prison.

The news comes amid allegations of a campaign of intimidation and harassment by Russian authorities against lawyers advising on the case. A Russian lawyer advising Khodorkovsky is understood to have been threatened with being disbarred, while Lebedev’s lawyer, Anton Drel, has had his office ransacked, allegedly by Kremlin agents.

Being a foreign national, Amsterdam is not allowed to represent his client in Russian courts or visit him in prison.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg last week chastised the Russian government for its persecution of another oligarch, Vladimir Gusinsky.

While the defence is not told of hearing dates until the eleventh hour, Amsterdam expects an announcement this week.