(Corrects Platon Lebedev's patronymic from Borisovich to
Leonidovich in paragraph 6)
MOSCOW, March 17 Jailed Russian businessman and
Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky failed on Tuesday in
multiple legal challenges against the terms of a pending trial
that his supporters say is politically motivated.
A court in Moscow will begin hearings on March 31 that could
see Khodorkovsky jailed for another 22 years if convicted of
embezzling $25 billion from his own oil company.
Defence lawyers argued that Khodorkovsky and his business
partner, Platon Lebedev, -- both already serving eight year
prison sentences for fraud and tax evasion -- are political
prisoners and that the new charges are absurd and should be
Earlier the court declined the defence's request to change
the state prosecutors and judge because of alleged bias.
The trial of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev will be open to
journalists, said a court spokeswoman.
"The charges against Mikhail Borisovich Khodorkovsky and
Platon Leonidovich Lebedev remain unchanged," the judge, Viktor
Danilkin, said at the end of the pre-trial hearing to review the
exact charges they will face.
Once one of the richest businessmen in Russia through his
Yukos oil firm, Khodorkovsky fell from favour under former
President Vladimir Putin.
The latest hearings are being watched closely for any signs
of a milder tone under Putin's successor, Dmitry Medvedev who
has promised to improve rule of law in Russia.
In 2005, a court sentenced Khodorkovsky to eight years in
prison for fraud and tax evasion.
(Reporting by Aidar Buribayev, writing by James Kilner; Editing
by Angus MacSwan)