A judge on Tuesday refused to allow Russia's top opposition protester Alexei Navalny to call any defence witnesses at his embezzlement trial which could see him jailed for up to 10 years on charges that he calls politically motivated.
The charismatic rally speaker and blogger on state corruption is accused of causing a half-million-dollar loss to the northern Kirov region in a timber deal in 2009 when he acted as an unpaid advisor to the governor. He links the case to his declared ambitions to stand for president.
Judge Sergei Blinov told Navalny's defence team that they had not shown what extra information the defence witnesses they had requested could tell the court, the RAPSI legal news agency reported from Kirov.
"The witnesses have already been questioned," Blinov said.
Navalny wrote on Twitter: "To be honest, I'm in shock that they refused all the witnesses. OK, I understand that they accept some and not others, but to refuse all of them?!"
The case has caused embarrassment to prosecutors as some witnesses called by the prosecution including Kirov governor Nikita Belykh have failed to back up their account of Navalny's involvement in alleged collusion to defraud, while others claimed to have forgotten the events.
The trial will resume on July 2 although Navalny told the court that he had to be in Moscow until July 10 to submit documents to stand as a candidate for a small liberal party in the city's mayoral race, set for September.