- The Washington Times - Friday, June 3, 2005

Excerpts of editorials from newspapers around the world:

Times of London

The Khodorkovsky verdict

LONDON — No one expected that Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former head of Yukos and once Russia’s richest man, would escape a guilty verdict in his trial for fraud and tax evasion. But the harshness of the nine-year sentence, imposed on him by a Moscow judge who spent 12 days reading out the evidence, confirms the worst fears about this show trial.

The sentence, only a year less than the maximum demanded by the prosecution, was clearly influenced, if not dictated, by the Kremlin. The trial, the most important test of post-Soviet judicial impartiality, was a travesty of justice: Khodorkovsky was often denied access to his lawyer, was denied medical treatment in custody, and was refused bail. The prosecution alleged theft of state property in the acquisition of company shares, yet documents proved the State had been paid the price it had initially demanded. And the judge so slavishly followed the prosecution that the summing-up even repeated its misprints.

Kremlin officials agreed, privately, that the prosecution was political. …

The outcome is as disastrous for Russian reform as it is for investor confidence. [President Vladimir] Putin’s insistence that business interests should not be allowed to buy political influence as happened so blatantly in the Yeltsin years is defensible; yet his use of the law to emasculate political opposition and intimidate challengers is a harking back to Soviet thinking.

Buenos Aires Herald

Shooting himself in the foot

Let us see if we have this quite right — President Nestor Kirchner has no time to receive a colleague of the global stature of South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki because he is too busy with an election five months down the road in which he is not even a candidate. Such political parochialism is an unacceptable affront whereby Mr. Kirchner demeans himself as much as anybody. Mr Kirchner prides himself as a human rights champion and yet has no interest in the enriching experience of the country of the Truth Commission — the government voices self-righteous indignation over the former police inspector currently being tried for the mid-2002 picket slayings [for] reportedly saying: “We have to kill all these darkies,” and yet Mr. Kirchner has no time for a “darkie” from abroad. Where does all this leave South-South rhetoric?

Moreover, Mr. Mbeki was not only coming alone but with four ministers and 40 businessmen representing the cream of South African enterprise. The Kirchner administration takes pride in having taken Argentina out of default … why then this gratuitous isolationism cutting Argentina off from the world by offending as important an emerging market as South Africa?


Talking trash

ATHENS — Garbage is set to pile up across the city of Athens, since the capital’s only landfill at Ano Liosia has been shut down indefinitely.

Ano Liosia Mayor Nikos Papadimas decided to close the dump site following fierce protests from residents — who earlier this week pelted municipal officials with eggs — and strong pressure from neighboring local leaders who have insinuated that the mayor is making shady deals with the government at the public’s expense.

This time the rift was caused by the government’s decision to allow daily shipments of sludge from the islet of Psyttaleia off Piraeus to be disposed at the landfill.

The failure of the PASOK government to complete the waste-treatment facilities of the Psyttaleia plant — an otherwise extremely vital project — and poor handling by the Public Works Ministry under the conservative administration have certainly exacerbated the problem.

To make matters worse, the issue has become a target of the Socialist party’s political opportunism in view of next year’s local elections. Repeated problems have also postponed the operation of ultramodern waste-treatment sites at Filis, Grammatiko, and Keratea.

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