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02:07 GMT +3 hours18 December 2014
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Russian court denies parole for ex-tycoon Khodorkovsky - 2

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A Siberian court rejected on Friday a request for parole from Yukos founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who is serving an eight-year prison term for fraud and tax evasion.
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CHITA, August 22 (RIA Novosti) - A Siberian court rejected on Friday a request for parole from Yukos founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who is serving an eight-year prison term for fraud and tax evasion.

Judge Igor Falileyev said: "The court ruled to deny the petition, and the decision can be appealed within 10 days in the Chita regional court."

Khodorkovsky, 45, the founder of what was once the country's largest oil company, was arrested in October 2003 and convicted in May 2005. Earlier this year new charges were filed against him, of laundering billions of dollars and stealing huge volumes of oil.

Explaining the refusal to grant parole, Falieyev said Khodorkovsky has refused to take part in a professional training program at the Krasnokamensk prison, and that he still faces punishment for breaking prison regulations.

Defense lawyer Vadim Klyuvgant called the grounds for refusal "quasi-legal."

"The first reason is that Khodorkovsky failed to learn the profession of a sewing machine operator. And this despite his education, intellect, and managerial experience... The second reason is a reprimand issued on October 15, 2007, by the penal colony's administration for failing to comply with an order to put his hands behind his back."

These decisions "have no relation to the law," Klyuvgant said.

The Yukos oil company formally ceased to exist in November 2007, after the company's assets were sold off through a series of liquidation auctions to meet vast creditor claims. State oil company Rosneft bought up the lion's share of the production assets, becoming Russia's largest oil producer.

Khodorkovsky, an outspoken critic of former president Vladimir Putin, has consistently denied all charges against him, saying he was punished for supporting the opposition, and that the liquidation of Yukos was engineered by corrupt government officials aiming to seize lucrative oil assets.

His parole request, filed on July 16, came after the election of President Dmitry Medvedev in March. The new pro-business leader had suggested that Khodorkovsky could eventually be pardoned, and has pledged major reforms to Russia's judiciary, aimed at creating an independent court system free of bribery and corruption.

As Khodorkovsky was escorted out of the court in handcuffs, he told reporters: "The judicial system won't be reformed any time soon."

Khodorkovsky's chances of parole have been severely damaged by the latest charges, brought by prosecutors in June against him and his business partner Platon Lebedev, also serving an eight-year jail term for fraud and tax evasion, of laundering $28.3 billion and stealing oil between 1998 and 2004.

Chief defense lawyer Yury Shmidt told reporters that by law, a parole application can be resubmitted six months after a court's rejection, but that the new charges will be in force for one year, and the next appeal can only be filed after that.

In a statement to the court published on Khodorkovsky's website, the former billionaire said: "I cannot repent crimes that did not exist. I cannot do this not only because of my belief in the unjustness of the verdict, but also because of my fear for the fate of many other people who have become hostages of the situation related to my conviction."

"As to the damages, it should be clarified that prior to my arrest Yukos was worth about 40 billion US dollars. Today, I no longer own anything. If somebody believes that some additional damages have been inflicted, after completion of the story with Yukos, they have been repaid with a vengeance."

Khodorkovsky told Russian business daily Vedomosti in an interview published on Friday that he has no intention of returning to the Russian oil industry and will not contest the rulings against Yukos.