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Prosecution launches attack on Khodorkovsky lawyers


MOSCOW, September 23 (RIA Novosti) - Russian prosecutors launched a fierce attack on Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his lawyers Friday, one day after the former oil tycoon was sentenced to eight years in jail.

Khodorkovsky's international attorney Robert Amsterdam from Canada said that unidentified people in civilian clothes had arrived at his hotel and taken away his passport on Thursday night. They later returned it, but with a stamp indicating that he had to leave Russia on Friday.

The Foreign Ministry and the Federal Migration Service said they had nothing to do with the expulsion of the attorney.

The Russian lawyers of the former head of Yukos oil major came under fire from the prosecutors.

"This so called most transparent oil company used criminal methods at every stage of its work," said Natalia Veshnyakova, press chief of the Prosecutor General's office. "And the lawyers used these methods, which were close to criminal," she said.

Prosecutors appealed to the Ministry of Justice, asking it to strip of their law licenses all members of Khodorkovsky's defense team with the exception of two men. The attorneys had deliberately tried to drag out the trial and delay and disrupt the hearings, she said.

The Moscow City Court dismissed Khodorkovsky's appeal in one-day hearings Thursday but reduced his sentence on tax evasion and fraud as well as that of his business partner Platon Lebedev from nine to eight years.

Genrich Padva, one of those Khodorkovsky lawyers not targeted by the prosecutors, said the sentence would be appealed in the Strasbourg Court as the statute of limitation on the main charge, on which Khodorkovsky and Lebedev got seven years in prison, had expired on September 21.

Padva said he had not been allowed a meeting with Khodorkovsky Friday.

The defense would also complain about violations of international law during the trial.

Chief prosecutor Dmitry Shokhin said Khodorkovsky, 42, was being portrayed as a martyr whereas he had got off easy as for similar charges in the United States he would have faced 40 years in jail. "I sleep well, my conscience is clean," he said.

"Banal swindle and tax evasion should not be turned into a 'case of the century'," Vishnyakova said.

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