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Russian Opposition Leader's Trial Adjourned In Kirov


Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny appears in the Lenin district court of the city of Kirov on April 17.
Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny appears in the Lenin district court of the city of Kirov on April 17.
The embezzlement trial of Russian opposition campaigner and anticorruption blogger Aleksei Navalny was adjourned for a week shortly after it began in the northern city of Kirov.

The judge agreed with a request from defense lawyers for more time to prepare.

After his trial was adjourned until April 24, Navalny told reporters: "We will definitely win this case. No matter what the ruling is, I am absolutely confident that we will prove our innocence and it will be clear to everybody that this is a political trial."

Navalny, 36, is accused of the theft of 16 million rubles ($510,000) from a timber firm in Kirov, when he was working for Kirov’s governor.

He could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Navalny rejects the charges as a political prosecution aimed at silencing him over his criticism of President Vladimir Putin.

He told reporters that he expected the trial will not be a short one.

"I can feel your disappointment, the journalists' disappointment, that [the hearing] lasted only 30 minutes, but this is what this trial is going to look like," he said.

"We will keep traveling back and forth and it will drag on for a long time because one of their goals is to reduce the public's interest in this case so everyone gets tired of it."

On April 18, one day after the Kirov adjournment, authorities announced that a new criminal investigation had been launched against Navalny and his brother, Oleg, over a disadvantageous contract they "convinced" a company to sign.

Navalny was at the forefront of opposition protests that shook Russia last year as Putin won the presidential election for an unprecedented third term.

He first came to prominence by exposing corruption in state-controlled companies on his blog and with published articles. He has also publicized the undeclared properties and bank accounts of government officials.

Navalny announced earlier this month that he would like to run for president.

He said that if he ever came to power, he would ensure prosecutors launch investigations against Putin and two prominent businessmen close to him, Gennady Timchenko and Arkady Rotenberg.

"All of them are links in this despicable, thieving chain of government," he said.

Opposition Support

A number of opposition leaders and government critics have voiced their support for Navalny.

Opposition lawmaker Dmitry Gudkov, who was in Kirov to back Navalny, condemned the trial.

"I came here to support Aleksei because I think this case is political and the investigation is biased. The case is being fabricated in front of our own eyes," Gudkov said.

"I fully understand that this is a case against me too, and against all of us, against all those who take part in the protest movement, criticize the authorities, and expose corrupt officials."

Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was also present in the courtroom, and also spoke to journalists.

"There was no transgression [in Navalny's actions], period," he said. "It is all an order from above, it is all about politics; it is all about revenge. They just want to jail him to scare the others and, of course, to neutralize Navalny himself."

Former Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, who served under Putin between 2000 and 2011, said on April 16 that the criminal case against Navalny "casts doubts on the basics of the market economy in Russia."

Kudrin wrote on his blog that Navalny’s case resembled "time travel" back to Soviet times.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and dpa
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