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Trial of Russian opposition leader Navalny reopens

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A Russian court in the northern city of Kirov on Wednesday reopened the trial of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is accused of embezzlement and may face up to a decade in jail if convicted.

The prosecution accuses the 36-year-old protest leader of causing a loss of $500,000 (385,000 euros) to the regional government while acting as an advisor in a timber deal, charges Navalny claims have been ordered by President Vladimir Putin.

The trial, held about 900 kilometres (560 miles) away from Moscow, opened last week but was quickly adjourned after Navalny's defence said they needed more time to study the case, which has been criticised by the opposition and some political heavyweights including former finance minister Alexei Kudrin.

Dressed in jeans and a shirt with rolled-up sleeves, Navalny, himself a lawyer, made no comment to the media when he entered the courtroom and appeared to be following the proceedings closely. Around a hundred journalists and fellow opposition activists were also present to watch the trial.

As Wednesday's hearing got under way, Navalny's defence immediately called for the case to be sent back to the prosecution, citing a litany of violations committed by the investigators, and arguing that the final indictment contains conflicting information.

A total of five probes are now aimed at the charismatic opposition leader, who if he is even given a suspended sentence will be banned from ever standing for office.

"I will grin and bear it. One day we will get even for all of them at once," he wrote on his popular blog last week.

The head of the timber company involved in the case, Pyotr Ofitserov, has gone on trial with him on the same charges.

Navalny's team has posted his entire chargesheet online and insists all the accusations are politically motivated.

But media loyal to the Kremlin have gone on the offensive, with polls suggesting that public support for Navalny is waning.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130424/trial-russian-opposition-leader-navalny-reopens-0