MOSCOW: The former oil tycoon, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who is in prison for fraud and tax evasion, said Russia's justice system was a production line of guilty verdicts handed to anyone the state considered dangerous, according to a newspaper article published on Wednesday.

The former CEO of the now-defunct Yukos oil company made the claim in the newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta on the day before the European Court of Human Rights will begin hearing a case alleging the state dismantled Yukos illegally.

President Dmitry Medvedev has said judicial reform and the rule of law are among his top priorities. But critics say there has been little progress, citing continued actions against Kremlin enemies and extensive reports on police abuses.

Russia's law enforcement system — from field detective work to court verdict — “is in essence a business that deals in legalizing the use of force,” wrote Khodorkovsky, who has been behind bars since his arrest in 2003.

“The system is the assembly line of a gigantic factory. ... If you become raw material for the assembly line, then a Kalashnikov rifle is always produced — that is, a guilty verdict. Any other result from the system's processing of raw material is viewed as a malfunction,” the article says.

Supporters say the eight-year sentence he is serving is punishment for challenging the political power of the former President, Vladimir Putin. Khodorkovsky faces another two decades in prison on similar charges.

Khodorkovsky mocked Russia's attitude toward its own Constitution, saying it played no part in a judge's verdict. — AP