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Human Rights Court: Trial of Russian Oil Tycoon Unfair

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, left, and his co-defendant Platon Lebedev talk behind a glass enclosure at a court room in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 30, 2010.
The European Court of Human Rights says the trial that sent Russia's richest man to a Siberian prison was unfair.

The court ruled Thursday there were problems with the way the Russian courts carried out the trial against former oil tycoon and opposition leader Mikhail Khodorkovsky. It also called the sentencing of Khodorkovsky and his business partner to serve their sentences at a prison near the Arctic Circle "unjustified."

The judges ordered the Russian courts to pay Khodorkovsky more than $13,000 in damages but also said that Russia has a legitimate case against the two men.

Khodorkovsky's lawyer said she is pleased with the ruling. Russia has three month's to appeal.

Russian authorities arrested Khodorkovsky and his business partner, Platon Lebedev, in 2003 on charges of tax evasion. They were first sentenced in 2005. They were later convicted of money laundering during a second trial in 2010.

Critics say the case was politically motivated because of Khodorkovsky's support of the opposition and his vocal criticism of President Vladimir Putin.

Last year, the Moscow City Court reduced Khodorkovsky's sentence by two years, clearing the way for him to walk free in October of next year.

The 50-year-old Khodorkovsky founded the Yukos oil company, making his fortune following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.