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Court Overturns Ruling Reducing Sentence of Khodorkovsky Partner

MTLebedev, right, in court with Khodorkovsky in 2009.

An Arkhangelsk court on Friday overturned a lower court ruling to reduce the prison sentence of Platon Lebedev, the former business associate of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, by three years and four months.

The Arkhangelsk Regional Court cancelled a ruling made on Aug. 8 by a judge in the Arkhangelsk region city of Velsk to reduce Lebedev's sentence, Interfax reported. The judge in the Aug. 8 decision had cited changes made to the Criminal Code during Dmitry Medvedev's presidency that lowered the maximum punishment for white-color offenses.

Lebedev is serving a 13-year sentence following his conviction on charges of fraud, tax evasion and embezzlement at two trials, in 2005 and 2010. His supporters say the charges were Kremlin punishment for Khodorkovsky's political and commercial ambitions.

The Arkhangelsk Regional Court on Friday ordered a retrial to be held at the court in Velsk, where Lebedev is serving his prison term. A different judge or judges will hear the case in the retrial.

Lebedev's lawyer Alexei Miroshnichenko told Interfax that his defense team would continue fighting for the businessman's immediate release.

Following the Aug. 8 court decision reducing his sentence, Lebedev had been set to be released next March.

Analysts had said the reduction in Lebedev's prison term represented a loosening of the screws on some Kremlin critics even while they are being tightened on other members of the political opposition, achieving a kind of political balance.

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