Alexander Lebedev avoids jail and is sentenced to 150 hours of community service for punching fellow tycoon on Russian TV
Alexander Lebedev was found guilty of battery and sentenced to 150 hours of community service by a Moscow court this afternoon, but avoided a potential jail sentence of up to five years.
Mr Lebedev, Russian businessman and the financial backer of The Independent, said outside the courtroom that it was the "lowest possible" punishment but that he nevertheless did not accept his guilt and planned to appeal the verdict.
The sentence brings to an end an often farcical trial over Mr Lebedev's punches of fellow Russian tycoon, Sergei Polonsky on television in 2011. The prosecutor had intially insisted that the punches constituted "hooliganism motivated by political hatred", which would have carried a jail sentence of up to five years, but these charges were dropped at the final hearing. The judge found Mr Lebedev guilty of the lesser charge of battery, even though Mr Lebedev's legal team said that legal precedent showed that battery had to involve three or more punches, and Mr Lebedev only punched Mr Polonsky twice.
Mr Polonsky, who in January was arrested in Cambodia on suspicion of assaulting local sailors, did not attend any of the hearings. He is believed to be in hiding in Israel, and last week fired his lawyers during one of the last hearings and asked the judge to acquit Mr Lebedev.
Genri Reznik, Mr Lebedev's lawyer, said that the judge should be "ashamed" at the verdict, and said the whole case had been instigated by political or business enemies of Mr Lebedev, who had initially hoped that the businessman would flee the country at the threat of jail. "The verdict did not take into account the most important pieces of evidence that we have presented over the hearings," said Mr Reznik. "This has always been revenge by certain people through the courts."
Mr Lebedev's punishment will not come into force until the appeals process has been exhausted, but community service in Russia is usually manual labour carried out near the place of residence. Mr Lebedev said he was prepared to put in the hours at Novaya Gazeta, the investigative Russian newspaper that he part-owns.
"The trial was flawed from the start," said Dmitry Muratov, the editor of Novaya Gazeta. "Polonsky never showed up to be questioned, the work of the investigators was awful, and a dangerous precedent has been set about the quality of 'expert opinion' that the judge apparently found acceptable."
Mr Lebedev's son Evgeny, owner of the Independent and London Evening Standard, said: "I am relieved that my father has been spared a custodial sentence, and that this deeply worrying time for our family is finally at an end.
"We are grateful for the messages of support we have received from friends and well-wishers, in Russia and around the world."
- 1 Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Professional big game hunter Ian Gibson crushed to death by elephant during hunt
- 4 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
Yemen crisis: Meet the child soldiers who have forsaken books for Kalashnikovs
Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
Professional big game hunter Ian Gibson crushed to death by elephant during hunt
Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...
£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...