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article imageOp-Ed: What do Julian Assange and Mikhail Khodorkovsky have in common?

By Michael Werbowski     Dec 11, 2010 in World
What do two men, who are jailed apart half way around the world share in common? A look at two "dissidents" whose cases, have put democracy and human rights on trial in both the East and West.
What does Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a man languishing in a prison cell or "penal colony" in the town of Krasnokamensk, in the eastern Siberian province of Chita, near Russia's Chinese border have in common with dashing and enigmatic WikiLeaks hero, now jailed in London, while the Swedes get their criminal case against him together? Well, perhaps, more than meets the eye. First, both man are in the their forties ( Assange, 40, Khodorkovsky, 47) and both are imprisoned for offending the established power structure, or challenging it in one way or another. In the case of Assange, the White House, and the State Department, in the case of Khodorkovsky, the Kremlin and the FSB ( Russian Security apparatus).
Both men await their fates to be determined, in the coming days and weeks, by what evidently, seems to a very politicised (this totally biased and partial) justice systems, pressured by nefarious national and international interests. In the case, of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, he is to find out next Wednesday, if he will spend another eight years in jail for his fraud convictions. The former tycoon who was once, Russia's wealthiest oligarchs, could rot in jail, if the second sentence is prolonged until 2017.
Who is this dissident or Russian Julian Assange?
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once owned a very big energy company "Yukos" and made a fortune with it in the bonanza decade of the nineteen-nineties, during the post - Soviet era. He decided to use his business skills and acumen to get involved in politics and promote a 'democratization" in his country. Some political observers, speculated he might even consider running for the Russian presidency. Subsequently, he became overtly (perhaps overly so) critical of the ruling Russian elite. The businessman-philanthropist, turned political activist, and in an interview before his arrest told The Times of London, referring to the Russian leadership : "It is the Singapore model, it is a term that people understand in Russia these days. It means that theoretically you have a free press, but in practice there is self-censorship. Theoretically you have courts; in practice the courts adopt decisions dictated from above. Theoretically there are civil rights enshrined in the constitution; in practice you are not able to exercise some of these rights." Such statements got him into very hot water with the ruling Russian elite. More ominously, he fell out of favor with Vladimir Putin; or the Kremlin's new guard.
On 25 October 2003, Khodorkovsky was arrested , his company dismantled by order a state decree and he was charged and found guilty on apparently very dubious grounds for tax fraud offence. He received a penalty of eight years in prison. His jail-term is currently expiring and he is to be re-tried and re-sentenced next week. It is no coincidence Russian PM Vladimir Putin is now such an outspoken supporter of "dissident Assange"; who was jailed this week for his crimes, revealing to the world highly compromising and embarrassing for the American government and its diplomatic service. Putin is a brilliant strategist and cunning leader, so seeks to deflect attention away from domestic matters, as his own government is about to prolong the jail sentence of one the last post cold war Russian political dissidents, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Julian Assange guilty of treason, sedition, espionage and rape as charged ! Khodorovsky might not be so lucky.
The founder and director of WikiLeaks as he ponders what do now from a jail cell, has been arrested on what the French say is a "Histore de Cul" or on "just a matter of sex". As we all know, in the west, sex has many negative implications and connotations (especially the unprotected kind) and prosecutors whose case is flimsy to begin with, couldn't seem to nail Mr. Assange on anything else, except a dalliance gone awry. The jailed Russian oligarch is charged on something much more serious: defrauding or cheating his government. In Russia, under the presidency of Boris Yeltsin, this practise was a national sport, or tolerated and even applauded. But since 2000 when President Putin came to power, the party ended, and unfortunately for Mr. Khodorkovsky (whether the charges are true or fabricated is still questionable it seems) they have implied, for him, spending his best years, behind bars, in a frozen gulag.
Khodorkovsky and the WikiLeaks connection
How might the WikiLeaks disclosures impact the plight of the jailed Russian dissident? According to WikiLeaks, a US embassy cable from Moscow said: "There is a widespread understanding that Khodorkovsky violated the tacit rules of the game: if you keep out of politics, you can line your pockets as much as you desire. Most Russians believe the Khodorkovsky trial is politically motivated; they simply do not care that it is." Any prolongation of Khodorkovky's sense would smack of a politically motivated internal exile or banishment of the man who dared to rattle and rile the Kremlin's rulers. Does this sound familiar? Who can argue that Julian Assange legal imbroglio is also not motivated by political considerations as well?
Both men need to be set free immediately, if their gaolers wish to preach democracy at home and abroad.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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