On September 14, Michael Kodorkovski appealed his 9-year sentence in prison. It was not a surprise that the Russian press, controlled by the government, expressed its satisfaction for such a sentence to satisfy an irritated opinion. It is a pity that in France and Europe the matter has been silenced. It is true that it would have been easier to defend a personality less wealthy and honest than Michael Khodorkovski, but if democracy in Russia is to be safeguarded, this man has to be defended. There cannot be a distinction between “good” and “bad people”, and create a selective outrage.
It is true that he acquired his company as a result of a shocking liquidation of the properties of the Russian state, financed the first War of Chechnya and fraudulently evaded his creditors to escape from the 1998 crisis. However, he has to be defended because he was sentenced in an unfair trial, without legal justification and motivated by political reasons. All the international observers mentioned the abuses in this case: withdrawal of defense witnesses, others were sent to prison, raids in defense cabinets. There was never any evidence regarding his membership in a criminal organization, neither fraudulent fiscal setups undertaken mostly by companies close to power without paying much attention to it. He also has to be defended because we are witnesses of the major state plundering, which has enabled the government to regain control of the main national oil production. Finally, Khodorkovski has to be defended because he is a political prisoner whose real “crime” was to finance political groups against Vladimir Putin.
While Michael Khodorkovski has a dark side, we should not forget his glorious face. He could have been a multimillionaire in the exile, but he chose to be a political prisoner who, from his prison cell writes about the problems of liberalism in Russia. Today there is a new reality in Russia. There, supporting Khodorkovski means opposing Putin. It may always be considered that he is not Mandela, that his cell is not a gulag at all, and Putin, in the escalation of accepted criticisms, is after George W. Bush, but that does not hide the fact that his arrest is unfair. Putin’s Russia is a state that rigs the electoral votes in Ukraine and wages an unjust war in Chechnya. The same justice that sentences Khodorkovski releases Captain Eduard Ulman, who, with his men, shot down six Chechen civilians.
The cessation of the authoritarian drift in Russia depends a great deal upon Khodorkovsk’s future. Regarding this issue, it would be a paradox to remain doubtful in Paris, when from Gary Kasparov to Helena Bonner, no one has doubts in Moscow.

Le Monde (France)

En défense de Mikhail Khodorkovski″ by Patrick Klugman, Le Monde, September 13, 2005.