September 22, 2005

Russian tycoon appeal hearing stalls again

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The appeal hearing of Russian
billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky against his fraud conviction
stalled again on Thursday after his lawyer was given time for
fresh consultations with the oil tycoon.

Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, is appealing
against his conviction and 9 year jail sentence last May after
a campaign many observers say was engineered by the Kremlin to
punish him for his political ambitions.

His appeal hearing, which should have got under way on
September 19, has been adjourned several times in a wrangle
over his legal representation while Khodorkovsky himself seeks
to stage a bid for election to parliament.

When the hearing resumed on Thursday, his main lawyer,
Genrikh Padva, complained he had unable to gain access to
Khodorkovsky for direct consultations in jail.

The judges adjourned the hearing to give him time to
consult Khodorkovsky at the courthouse.

From his jail cell, the 42-year-old Khodorkovsky, who built
up the YUKOS oil firm, announced he would run in a December 4
by-election for a seat in the State Duma lower house of

If -- as his lawyers expect -- judges reject his appeal, he
will automatically be disqualified from the election, even
though he has managed to register as a candidate.

But, just by running, Khodorkovsky could generate
unfavorable publicity for the Kremlin, his supporters say.

A close aide said on Wednesday that Khodorkovsky's
application to register as a candidate had got lost in the post
and he blamed Russian authorities for spiriting it away.