It’s taken 12 days of verdict-reading, but today a Russian court declared former oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky guilty of charges including fraud and tax evasion and sentenced the founder of Yukos to nine years in prison.

A Russian court today declared Mikhail Khodorkovsky guilty of charges including fraud and tax evasion and sentenced the founder of Yukos, the former oil giant, to nine years in prison.

The verdict and sentence came in the twelfth day of the laborious verdict-reading process in the most closely watched trial of post-Soviet Russia.

Mr Khodorkovsky was found guilty of six out of seven charges in his fraud and tax evasion trial. Observers said the judges in the trial had made it clear from the start of their summing up 12 days ago that the he would be found guilty.

Co-defendant Platon Lebedev, a former business associate of Mr Khodorkovsky, was also found guilty and sentenced to nine years in prison.

The sentences were one year short of the maximum 10-year penalty sought by the state prosecution.

Mr Khordokovsky, who has already spent 583 days in prison since his arrest in October 2003, has 10 days to appeal against the verdict and sentence.

Defense lawyers have indicated they will appeal the verdict not just through Russian judicial channels but possibly at the European Court of Human Rights and through an international campaign of pressure against President Vladimir Putin’s government.

The trial, which began on June 16 last year, has sparked widespread international criticism, shaken the confidence of investors and perhaps contributed to a surge in capital flight from Russia last year.

The authorities described Mr Khodorkovsky, 41, as a robber baron who bought Yukos on the cheap during the murky and unregulated privatisation process of the early 1990s.

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