Saturday, November 06, 2010

An Honourable Dissident

Today is Saturday, 6 November 2010.

Seldom will one hear me say a good word for a billionaire, even an ex-billionaire. But sometimes camels do pass through the eyes of needles.

Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky is deserving of great praise and support.

Khodorkovsky became wealthy as a result of the infamous “shock therapy” which “privatized” the Russian economy after the demise of the Soviet Union. The hands of no one who became very rich during that period are clean. What distinguished Khodorkovsky was that he built Yukos Oil into a powerhouse with a vision of a company that was run more decently and transparently than many Western companies. Then, he made the mistake of publicly backing the opposition to the new czar, President Vladimir Putin.

Khodorkovsky was convicted on false charges in a show trial, and has spent most of the past seven years imprisoned in Siberia. He has now been convicted on fresh false charges in another show trial, and will no doubt be sentenced, probably next month, to additional years in prison.

In his statement to the court, Khodorkovsky said, in part: “What must be going through the minds of the entrepreneur, or the senior manager, or simply an ordinary educated, creative person, watching our trial, and knowing that its result is absolutely predictable? The obvious conclusion is chilling in its stark simplicity: it is that the siloviki can do anything. [The siloviki are corrupt bureacrats, many former secret police, which are the base of Putin’s power.] Millions of eyes throughout Russia and the world are watching this trial. They are watching with the hope that Russia will still become a country of freedom, and law is above the bureaucrat. Where supporting opposition parties is not a cause for reprisals. Where special services protect the people and the law, and not the bureaucracy from the people and the law. Where human rights no longer depend on the mood of the czar, good or evil. I am not a perfect person, but I am a person with an idea. For me, as for anybody, it is hard to live in jail, and I do not want to die there. But if I have to, I will. The things I believe in are worth dying for.”

Khodorkovsky is no longer a businessman, Yukos and his other possessions having been stolen by the siloviki. He is now something far greater, an honourable dissident opposing a dictatorial regime.

I salute him.

See The New York Times for more:

"The Day After: Analysis" will resume shortly.


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