As a Moscow court prepares to hear the Khodorkovsky verdict, his defense team and human rights advocates are seeing red.

The reading of the verdict in the fraud and tax evasion trial of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky was still continuing on May 26, and is expected to last into next week as Judge Irina Kolesnikova reads through the 1,000-page document.

But no one is paying much attention to her words anymore: They repeat the prosecution’s original charges against Khodorkovsky almost verbatim, ignoring the various arguments put forward by the defense. Such has been the way throughout the Yukos saga, in which Russian courts have consistently taken the side of prosecutors.

Whatever one thinks about Khodorkovsky, or the ethics and legality of his former business activities at the huge oil conglomerate he once commanded, few have any illusions left about the capacity of Russia’s justice system to secure a fair trial.

Procedural flaws in the case have been documented by, among others, the Council of Europe, the Strasbourg-based international human rights organization of which Russia is also a member. In a January resolution, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe identified “serious procedural violations” that “call into question the fairness, impartiality, and objectivity of the authorities.”

For example, in defiance of international legal conventions and Russian laws, defense lawyers have had their premises searched and documents relating to the defense confiscated

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