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Russian Financier To Appeal Murder Conviction

Aleksei Frenkel (right) behind the glass in Moscow City Court earlier this month
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russian financier Aleksei Frenkel, sentenced to 19 years in prison this month for ordering the murder of a central banker, will lodge an appeal, his lawyer has said, arguing that the trial was unfair.

Lawyer Ruslan Koblyev said some defence evidence had been withheld from the jury.

State prosecutors had argued that Frenkel acted out of revenge when he ordered the September 2006 killing of Andrei Kozlov, the 41-year-old deputy head of Russia's central bank who had revoked the licences of Frenkel's bank.

"We will submit a detailed appeal," Koblyev said. "We are not going to raise questions about whether Alexei Frenkel's guilt has been proven or not. We are going to list the violations of the law that happened during the trial."

Kozlov, who had led a campaign against money-laundering and corruption in Russia's banking system, was shot dead as he left a soccer match in Moscow. His murder was one of the most high-profile crimes to hit the country during Vladimir Putin's 2000 to 2008 presidency, reviving memories of Russia's "wild capitalism" and contract killings of the 1990s.

Koblyev said a key point of the appeal would argue that jurors were not always allowed to hear the defense witnesses' testimony. "The jury only received proof from the prosecution while the proof froom the defense remained unknown to them."

A lawyer for the Kozlov family, Andrei Portnov, said defense witnesses were questioned in the absence of the jury only to establish if their evidence was relevant to the case, not to prevent the jury from hearing their statements.

Along with Frenkel, six others were sentenced to various jail terms for their role in Kozlov's murder. The assassin who shot Kozlov and his driver was jailed for life and another man who shot only at the driver was handed 24 years in prison. The other four were sentenced to between six and 14 years.

The court also ruled that the seven found guilty must pay Kozlov's father a total of 10 million rubles ($364,000) "to make up for moral and material damage."