Russian Court Refuses To Hear Defence Witnesses In Navalnyy’s Embezzlement Trial

File Photo of Alexei Navalny Being Grabbed by Police at Protest

(RIA Novosti – Kirov, June 18, 2013) Judge Sergey Blinov refused on Tuesday (18 June) the request of the defence that 13 witnesses, including an auditor and several experts, be summoned to court in at the Kirovles (Kirov Timber) trial, a RIA Novosti correspondent has reported from Kirov’s Leninskiy court.

On Monday, defence lawyer Svetlana Davydova submitted a request for 13 witnesses for the defence to be called in. “The defence insists on cross-examining the 13 people listed yesterday. The defence believes that these witnesses can provide information which constitutes relevant evidence in these criminal proceedings,” Davydova said.

She explained that among those whom the defence asked to the called in were regional government staff, to explain the work with Kirovles; and economic experts, since neither the parties (to the case) nor the court had the required knowledge in this field.

Judge Blinov turned down the request because, he said, no substantiation had been provided of what evidence relevant to the criminal proceedings these witnesses could give. The judge said that the specialists’ conclusions on expert reports had been presented comprehensibly. There are no reasons to cross-examine the auditor either because the conclusions of the audit were read out in full.

Navalnyy (one of the defendants in the case, Russian blogger and protest leader Aleksey Navalnyy) was incensed by Blinov’s decision. “We heard 35 witnesses for the prosecution here, and some of them knew nothing at all. The most popular answer was ‘I don’t know’. And yet when we call our witnesses and give sound reasons why they should be here, you turn our request down. I believe that in these conditions you are simply denying us the right to defend ourselves,” Navalnyy said.

According to investigators, while working as an adviser to the governor of Kirov Region in May-September 2009, Navalnyy conspired with OOO (limited liability company) Vyatka Timber Company director Petr Ofitserov and Kirovles director-general Vyacheslav Opalev to organize the embezzlement of more than 10,000 cu.m. of timber. Navalnyy faces up to 10 years behind bars for “organizing the embezzlement of other people’s property on a large scale”.