The Moscow City Court has postponed the high-profile trial of several former police officers suspected in the illegal apprehension of investigative journalist Ivan Golunov last year after the lawyer of one of the defendants said he had lost his legal license.
Aleksei Kovrizhkin, the lawyer of the former chief of the Moscow police's illegal-drugs department, Igor Lyakhovets, told the court at the start of the trial on December 14 that the Moscow Chamber of Attorneys revoked his license to practice for unspecified reasons in October.
The court recessed and said the trial would reconvene on December 17 as it waits for official confirmation of Kovrizhkin's status.
Lyakhovets, meanwhile, told the court that he does not want legal assistance and will defend himself during the process.
Lyakhovets has said that the case against him and his four former subordinates, Akbar Sergaliyev, Roman Feofanov, Maksim Umetbayev, and Denis Konovalov, is politically motivated.
The five men were arrested in late-January and charged later with abuse of service duties, the falsification of evidence, and the illegal handling of drugs.
In September, the suspects were additionally charged with "committing a crime in an organized group," which carries stricter penalties.
The 37-year-old Golunov, who works for the Latvia-based information outlet Meduza, was arrested in June last year in Moscow for allegedly attempting to sell illegal drugs.
He was released several days later after the charges were dropped following a public outcry. The case sparked an investigation into his detainment over the charges and also into why Golunov suffered bruises, cuts, a concussion, and a broken rib during the ordeal.
In mid-July, the police officers who detained Golunov were fired along with their supervisor for violating the journalist's rights.
After Golunov’s release, Russian President Vladimir Putin fired Major General Yury Devyatkin, the head of the Moscow police department's drug=control directorate, and Major General Andrei Puchkov, the police chief in Moscow's West administrative region, over the case.
Authorities announced in November that the case had been classified, a decision harshly criticized by Golunov's lawyers, who called the move an attempt to cover up the "wrongful arrest" of their client.
In a very rare move, the Prosecutor's Office of Moscow's Western District apologized to Golunov in February for his illegal prosecution.