Yukos lawyers appeal prison report ruling

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MOSCOW, September 7 (RIA Novosti) - Lawyers acting for the jailed founder of Yukos Oil Company appealed Thursday a court ruling upholding a suit filed by penal authorities over a television report that allegedly discredited a Moscow detention facility.

On August 25, a Moscow court upheld a suit filed by the Federal Penitentiary Service in December against a REN-TV anchorwoman and two lawyers acting for Mikhail Khodorkovsky over a report about an alleged hunger strike staged by Khodorkovsky that was broadcast a year previously.

"Our appeal has been transferred to a superior court," said lawyer Yevgeny Baru. "The decision of the ... court makes no sense either legally or logically."

Baru also said the court had not based its decision on the suit filed by the penal authorities.

The court ruled two weeks ago that the channel should withdraw the report prepared by REN-TV presenter Marianna Maksimovskaya and lawyers Baru and Shmidt.

Commenting on the court decision Thursday, Shmidt concurred with his colleague Baru. "It is not a ruling but a ridiculous story to tell," he said, adding that the penal authorities' suit should have never been accepted.

Following the court ruling in August, the lawyers said Khodorkovsky had started the hunger strike in protest against the placement of business partner Platon Lebedev in a disciplinary cell and added that Lebedev, who is serving an eight-year sentence for fraud in northern Russia, had been beaten during a search in his apartment.

The penitentiary service said the report was untrue and it had not heard of the hunger strike before. It said the report discredited the Matrosskaya Tishina pre-trial detention center, where both businessmen were held for more than a year during court proceedings.

Defense lawyers earlier asked the court to reject the appeal, saying the detention center should file a separate suit if it believed its rights had been violated.

"Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were not only held in Matrosskaya Tishina, but also in other detention centers," a representative for Shmidt said. "If we follow this logic, other detention centers could also be involved in the case as third parties."

The service later lodged an appeal with the Khamovniki court to add the Matrosskaya Tishina to the list of plaintiffs.

Anchorwoman Maksimovskaya reportedly argued that Khodorkovsky's alleged hunger strike had been mentioned in the media before and said she would defend her case in a court of law.

Both Lebedev and Khodorkovsky were sentenced to nine years in prison each in May 2005, but the terms were reduced to eight years on appeal.

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