World News

Merkel sees politics behind Khodorkovsky sentence

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized on Thursday the sentencing of former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky to six additional years in prison, saying the ruling appeared to be politically motivated.

“The impression remains that political motivations played a role in this trial,” Merkel said in Berlin. “This contradicts Russia’s frequently repeated intention to pursue full adoption of the rule of law.”

The sentencing of Khodorkovsky by a Russian judge on charges of multi-billion dollar theft and money-laundering means he will serve a total of 14 years in prison and not be freed until 2017.

Germany relies heavily on Russian energy imports and the two countries have close economic ties, but Merkel’s government has not shied away from criticising Moscow in recent years on issues such as human rights and press freedoms.

Politicians from the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), junior coalition partners to Merkel’s conservatives, used even stronger language in condemning the ruling.

German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Scharrenberger said in a statement that the sentencing was “unquestionably politically motivated” and that it exposed as “hollow” Russia’s past pledges to observe the rule of law.

Reporting by Christiaan Hetzner; editing by Noah Barkin