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Trial Of Navalny Ally Sobol Quickly Adjourned Over Technical Issue


Lyubov Sobol flashes a "victory" sign in court in Moscow on March 10.

MOSCOW -- The trial of Lyubov Sobol, a lawyer for jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation who is charged with trespassing, has been adjourned just minutes after it started due to technical issues.

The Perovsky district court of the Russian capital started the trial on March 10 but quickly noted that there were "technical shortcomings in the materials of the case" and adjourned the hearing until March 23.

Sobol is charged with illegally forcing her way into the apartment of a relative of Federal Security Service (FSB) officer Konstantin Kudryavtsev. If convicted, Sobol faces up to two years in prison.

On December 21, Sobol went to the residential building in Moscow where Kudryavtsev lived at the time. Sobol went just hours after Navalny had published a recording of what he said was a phone conversation with Kudryavtsev.

During the 49-minute phone call, in which the anti-corruption campaigner posed as an FSB official conducting an internal review, Kudryavtsev described the details of an operation to poison the Kremlin critic in August.

Investigators say Sobol pushed Kudryavtsev's mother-in-law, who opened the door, and forcefully entered the apartment adjacent to the one where Kudryavtsev lived.

Sobol's team have described the case as political "revenge" for the lawyer not being afraid to ask questions of the alleged assassin.

The investigators say they were unable to locate and question Kudryavtsev, who is neither a witness nor a plaintiff in the case. The apartment he lived in at the time of the events in question now officially belongs to the state.

Navalny was arrested on January 17 upon his returned to Russia from Germany, where he received life-saving treatment from the nerve-agent poisoning in Siberia in August.

Navalny has insisted that his poisoning was ordered directly by Putin. The FSB and the Kremlin have denied any role in the poisoning.

Last month, a Moscow court ruled that while in Germany, Navalny had violated the terms of parole from an old embezzlement case that is widely considered to be politically motivated.

Navalny's 3 1/2-year suspended sentence from the case was converted to a jail term, though the court said he will serve 2 1/2 years in prison given time already served in detention.

The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia over the Navalny affair and crackdown on protesters.

On March 9, 40 human rights organizations signed a joint statement addressed to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, demanding they officially condemn Sobol's persecution.

On March 8, Sobol published her election program, saying that she plans to run for parliament's lower chamber, the State Duma, in September elections.

Sobol is currently under house arrest in another case.

She and several other associates and supporters of Navalny were charged with violating sanitary regulations during unsanctioned rallies in Moscow on January 23 protesting Navalny's incarceration.

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