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Updated: May 18, 2010 17:27 IST

Jailed Russian oligarch launches hunger strike

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Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky is in a court room behind a glass wall in Moscow. File photo: AP.
Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky is in a court room behind a glass wall in Moscow. File photo: AP.

The detained Kremlin critic and former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has begun an open—ended hunger strike to protest what he says is the arbitrary nature of Russia’s justice system, local media reported on Tuesday.

The country’s best—known prisoner reportedly wants to draw President Dmitry Medvedev’s attention to ongoing legal violations.

Human rights activists expressed concerned about his health.

The leader of the now defunct oil company Yukos, who has been jailed since 2003 for tax fraud, is on trial facing new money— laundering charges.

A Moscow court officially extended his detention for the new case by three months in mid—May.

Khodorkovsky believes the move violated a law recently signed by Mr. Medvedev that usually prohibits those charged with financial crimes from being placed in pre—trial custody.

Many people are affected by the new law, but Russian justice officials “openly disregard” the measure initiated by Mr. Medvedev, Khodorkovsky argued.

The latest prolongation of Khodorkovsky’s detention is a gross breach of the law, the Moscow—based human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov told the Interfax news agency.

According to a countdown on the website, his first prison sentence is to end in some 500 days. But Khodorkovsky could face another 22 years in prison on the new charges.

He has repeatedly argued that the trials are politically motivated and that he will likely have to spend the rest of his life in prison.

The oligarch was first arrested in 2003 during Putin’s tenure at the helm of the Kremlin. He was convicted in 2005. His eight—year prison sentence is scheduled to end next year.

Germany and the United States have questioned the legitimacy of the proceeding.

Keywords: Mikhail Khodorkovskyfast

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