The announcement of the final verdict in the new trial of ex-oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev is likely to end after New Year holidays, Lebedev's lawyer, Konstantin Rivkin, said on Wednesday.
Moscow's Khamovniki district court has postponed the announcement of the verdict until December 27. The announcement was originally planned to begin on Wednesday. The reasons for postponement were not disclosed.
"Even if the verdict announcement will start on December 27, the judge will fail to announce the resolutive part until after the New Year holidays," Rivkin said.
In the resolutive part, the judge decides whether to justify or condemn the defendants and defines the punishment.
Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, who have already spent seven years behind bars for tax evasion, are facing new charges of embezzling 218 million tons of oil from Khodorkovsky's former oil firm Yukos, and laundering over 3 billion rubles ($97.5 million) in revenues. If found guilty, the two men face another seven years in jail.
The verdict into the first criminal case against the ex-Yukos executives in 2005 was announced by three judges and took two weeks. This time there is only one judge, Viktor Danilkin.
"Even if he [Danilkin] manages to read the verdict round the clock without taking any breaks, he is not likely to finish by January 1," the lawyer said.
Under the law, the announcement of the verdict can be delayed only if the judge is ill or fails to finish writing the text.
The lawyer said the court failed to announce the verdict on Wednesday fearing mass public attention. He said by December 27, people will be "engaged into the New Year and Christmas holidays" and "not much excitement" over the process will be expected.
Rivkin did not rule out that the announcement of the verdict was postponed as it coincided with the annual question-and-answer session of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin due on December 16.
A spokesperson for the court, Natalya Vasilyeva, refused to tell journalists the reason for the delay of the verdict announcement on Wednesday.
"We have received the document with the court's stamp on it notifying of the postponement of the verdict announcement and we are now leaving the court," said Vladimir Krasnov, a lawyer for Lebedev.
He said the official reasons for the move remained unknown. Krasnov also failed to tell journalists about the reaction of the defendants following the announcement.
Both defendants have repeatedly maintained their innocence and claimed that the charges against them were politically motivated.
Observers say it is highly likely that the two men will be found guilty as it is in the Kremlin's interests to keep them in jail for as long as possible.
The defense for Khodorkovsky and Lebedev earlier said prosecutors could press a third set of charges against the ex-Yukos executives in the near future.
MOSCOW, December 15 (RIA Novosti)