Key witness against Lebedev 'can't testify'

 

Moscow

Lawyers for the key witness in the case against Alexander Lebedev, the Russian businessman and financial backer of The Independent, have said he is unable to return to Russia to testify.

Mr Lebedev is charged with hooliganism motivated by political hatred for punching the property tycoon Sergei Polonsky during a 2011 television show.

He faces up to five years in jail if found guilty. Mr Lebedev’s lawyer, Genri Reznik, said Mr Polonsky’s claim that he could not attend was “laughing in the face of justice” and noted that legally, if he is not seriously ill or subjected to other “extraordinary circumstances”, he is obliged to attend.

In January Mr Polonsky was jailed in Cambodia for throwing sailors into the sea, but he has been released on bail and is believed to be in another country. His lawyers said they did not know where he was, and provided a letter from him asking for the case to be tried in his absence.

The case continues next week.

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