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A court in southeastern Siberia on Wednesday again postponed hearings
A court in southeastern Siberia on Wednesday again postponed hearings on a joint appeal by Yukos founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev against their extended detention.

"A break until 10 a.m. Friday has been announced," the presiding judge said.

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev addressed the Ingodinsk District Court in the city of Chita on Wednesday offering their arguments against their detention while new charges against them are investigated.

The court turned down Khodorkovsky's parole request in August, and ruled earlier this month that custody for both businessmen be extended until February next year. In early July, Russian prosecutors brought charges against the businessmen of stealing oil and laundering $28.3 billion between 1998 and 2004.

"I am accused of stealing 350 million metric tons of oil. The figure is comparable to Russia's annual output between 1998 and 2004," he said.

"There is no prosecution evidence as such simply does not exist. And there is no evidence for the defense as investigators have refused to gather it or attach evidence to the case provided by the defense," Khodorkovsky said.

Lebedev said the defense would offer the court convincing evidence.

The prosecutor in the case then asked the court for a break to be able to prepare her statement, and defense lawyers said they would address the court after the prosecutor. The judge announced a break until Friday.

Lebedev and Khodorkovsky, who are serving their eight-year sentences on fraud and tax evasion charges, have consistently maintained their innocence. Khodorkovsky claims that he has been punished for supporting the country's opposition, and that the subsequent bankruptcy of Yukos was engineered by corrupt government officials to seize lucrative oil assets.

The former business partners might be released in 2011, but the fresh charges could lead to new sentences.


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