Court raps Russia on Khodorkovsky, rejects politics claims

Court raps Russia on Khodorkovsky, rejects politics claims Moscow: A European court on Tuesday censured Russia over the imprisonment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky but refused to back claims the arrest was politically motivated, as its former richest man requested parole.

The supporters of Khodorkovsky, who turned Yukos into Russia's biggest oil firm before it was seized and broken up by the state, have long argued he was imprisoned as punishment for daring to challenge strongman Vladimir Putin.

The European Court of Human Rights ordered Russia to pay USD 14,380 in damages to the tycoon and USD 21,000 in costs after finding violations in the conditions of his arrest and subsequent detention.

However, the Strasbourg-based court refused to back his central argument that the case is "politically motivated", it said in a statement.

The decision came just after the Preobrazhensky district court in Moscow announced it had received a request from Khodorkovsky for parole and amid tentative signs of a shift in the attitude towards the case by the authorities.

"I ask you to examine the issue of my parole," Khodorkovsky said in a request to a Moscow court, posted on his website late yesterday.

"The articles under which I have been convicted provide for this possibility once half the sentence has been completed," he added.

Khodorkovsky has been in detention since 2003 when he was arrested on his jet on the runway of a Siberian airport.

The former magnate and his co-accused Platon Lebedev are serving an eight- year sentence issued in 2005 for tax evasion and are set to stay in jail until 2016 after receiving another 13-year sentence for fraud.