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    KHODORKOVSKY DEFENSE SAY THEY'LL APPEAL COURT'S DECISION TO LEAVE HIM IN CUSTODY TILL MAY

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    MOSCOW, MARCH 19, 2004 (RIA NOVOSTI) - Mikhail Khodorkovsky's defense lawyers say they will appeal the Basmanny District Court's decision to hold their client in custody until May 25, 2004. They are going to file the appeal with the Moscow Municipal Court within ten days' time, they said.

    The Basmanny Court handed the decision down on Friday, thereby honoring the Prosecutor General's request to extend Khodorkovsky's detention. The former CEO of the Russian oil giant Yukos has been in jail since his arrest on October 25, 2003. He is charged with crimes punishable under seven articles of the Russian Penal Code.

    The Prosecution implicates Khodorkovsky and his associates in the misappropriation of a 20-percent stake (worth over $283 million) in a fertilizer plant, Apatit.

    Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, another major Yukos shareholder, are also facing fraud and tax evasion charges. The two men are suspected of stealing over one billion dollars from the public purse.

    As an individual, Khodorkovsky is also accused of failing to pay 53 million rubles ($1.7 million) in income tax and pension premiums.

    On March 12, Moscow's Basmanny Court warranted the arrest of Swiss bank accounts held by him and nineteen other persons under investigation in connection with charges of fraud in the Yukos company. According to the Prosecutor General's Office, Khodorkosvky, Lebedev, Leonid Nevzlin, and other Yukos shareholders hold some 6.2 billion Swiss francs (about $5 billion) at five banks in Switzerland. "We are not talking about assets, shares or any other treasury bills; we are talking about the personal accounts of individuals who have somehow taken part in embezzling major sums from the treasury coffers," a spokesperson for the Prosecutor General's Office explained.

    Khodorkovsky denies all the charges brought up against him.

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