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Russian tycoon Lebedev's TV punch-up trial hearing postponed

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 24 Jan 2013 10:17 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Hearing was scheduled for Thursday, postponed to Feb 7

* Lebedev says charges are baseless

* Says offered Polonsky bail money, was refused

MOSCOW, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Russian banker and media magnate Alexander Lebedev, who says his trial for throwing punches during a television chat show is a political witch-hunt, said on Thursday his case had been postponed as one of his lawyers was out of the country.

The backer of Britain's Independent and London Evening Standard newspapers was seen lunging at property developer Sergei Polonsky during a broadcast in 2011.

Lebedev was charged in September with hooliganism motivated by religious, political, racial, ethnic or ideological hatred and could be jailed for up to five years if convicted.

He told reporters outside Moscow's Ostankino district court Thursday's pre-trial hearing was moved to Feb. 7 because one of his lawyers was abroad and another was taking part in a separate case.

"So there was nothing heard ... The only question raised by the judge was whether Polonsky will be participating," Lebedev said.

Polonsky was detained in Cambodia this month, accused of assault and illegal detention after a separate incident on a boat. He could face up to three years in prison if convicted.

Lebedev said he had offered to cover Polonsky's bail in Cambodia, but had been refused.

In an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, Lebedev likened his trial to a witch-hunt and said the charge of hooliganism leveled against him was baseless as the incident did not amount to a pre-meditated gross violation of public order.

Lebedev, whose fortune was put at ${esc.dollar}1.1 billion by Forbes magazine last year, has said he is being made a scapegoat for criticising President Vladimir Putin. (Reporting By Olga Petrova and Megan Davies; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Andrew Heavens)

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