* Lawyers say the transfer is a bid to delay parole hearing
* Say Khodorkovsky was unlawfully denied visit from wife
MOSCOW, June 10 Jailed former oil tycoon Mikhail
Khodorkovsky was transferred from Moscow to a prison camp in an
undisclosed location, his lawyers said on Friday, decrying the
move as an attempt to block his parole hearing.
Once Russia's richest man, Khodorkovsky was jailed in 2003
after falling foul of the Kremlin under then President Vladimir
Putin. He is serving a 13-year sentence and is due to be
released in 2016.
Khodorkovsky's defence team, who claim he is a political
prisoner, said he filed again for parole on Tuesday after a
Moscow court refused to hear a first request on the grounds that
he did not supply the proper documents. [nLDE7561TX]
Lawyer Vadim Klyuvgant said the transfer was aimed "at
creating an artificial delay of the hearing of our client's
application for parole".
He claimed it would be easier for the authorities to reject
his request for early release if the review was held far from
Moscow and from journalists who could spotlight violations.
"It is clear that they are trying to prevent hearing the
petition for parole in Moscow since there are no legitimate
grounds for a denial," he said in a statement on his client's
Khodorkovsky's lawyers said both they and his wife were
earlier denied a meeting with the jailed former head of oil
major Yukos on the grounds he was being readied for the journey.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled last week that
Russia violated Khodorkovsky's rights during his 2003 arrest and
jailing on charges of fraud and tax evasion and ordered Moscow
to pay him 24,500 euros ($35,300), though it found no firm proof
the case was politically motivated. [ID:nLDE74U12D]
Ahead of a second trial against him, Khodorkovsky was
transferred in February 2009 to a Moscow jail from a Siberian
prison camp outside Chita, where he was serving his first
It was unclear Friday whether he was sent back to Chita or
another detention facility.
Itar-tass state news agency cited a law enforcement source
confirming that Khodorkovsky had been transferred and said
relatives would be informed of his new location within 10 days.
Moscow court and prison authorities could not immediately
reached for comment by Reuters.
Khordorkovsky built a fortune by buying state assets cheaply
after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, but his business
empire, which produced more oil than OPEC member Qatar, was
split up and sold after his arrest in 2003.
He has said repeatedly that his convictions for fraud, theft
and money laundering were ordered by senior officials who wanted
to carve up his oil company and take revenge for a perceived
challenge to Putin's authority.
Russian state-controlled oil firm Rosneft (ROSN.MM)
eventually bought the largest production assets, including
Yuganskneftegaz, making Rosneft Russia's biggest oil producer.
Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev were
sentenced to stay in jail until 2017 in a second trial in
December, but the sentence was reduced by one year on appeal.
President Dmitry Medvedev said last month it would not be
dangerous to release Khodorkovsky, but Prime Minister Putin has
taken a tougher stance, comparing the former tycoon to American
gangster Al Capone.
(Writing by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Louise Ireland)