Jailed Russian tycoon is honored by Lech Walesa

GDANSK, Poland (AP) — A son of Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky received a $100,000 human rights award on behalf of his imprisoned father on Sunday during a ceremony in Poland conducted by Solidarity founder Lech Walesa.

The award, announced on Thursday, was bestowed in recognition of the tycoon’s efforts to build a free economy and a civil society in Russia.

In the ornate Artus Court in Gdansk, Walesa gave the award to 28-year-old Pavel, Khodorkovsky’s eldest child, who read his father’s letter of thanks in English.

The U.S. Ambassador to Poland Stephen Mull was among some 300 officials who attended the ceremony.

Once Russia’s richest man, Khodorkovsky has been convicted in two separate trials in Russia of evading taxes, stealing oil from his own company and laundering the proceeds. He has spent nearly 10 years in prison and is due for release in 2014.

Khodorkovsky’s demeanor during his trials and his writings from prison have earned him much respect. His cause became a rallying point for opposition against President Vladimir Putin. His case is seen as Putin’s punishment for his political ambitions and support for the opposition.

Walesa received the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize for founding Solidarity, the Polish freedom movement that grew out of worker discontent. In 1989 it peacefully ousted communism in his nation and the following year Walesa became Poland’s first popularly elected president.

He has since withdrawn from active politics but continues to support pro-democracy efforts around the world, including the Lech Walesa human rights award that he founded in 2008.

Walesa turned 70 on Sunday, and the award-giving ceremony began with flowers and good wishes for him.

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