MOSCOW Feb 7 Russian media magnate Alexander
Lebedev's court case over a televised punch-up has been held up
to ensure that all the parties involved including property
developer Sergei Polonsky are properly informed.
Prosecutors opened an investigation into billionaire Lebedev
last year over an incident in which he leapt out of his chair
and threw a punch at Polonsky during a television talk show.
The backer of Britain's Independent and London Evening
Standard newspapers was charged in September with hooliganism
motivated by religious, political, racial, ethnic or ideological
hatred, could be jailed for up to five years if convicted.
Lebedev says he will plead not guilty.
Pre-trial court hearings had been postponed from January to
Feb. 7 because one of Lebedev's lawyers was abroad and another
was involved in a separate case.
The judge on Thursday sent the case back to the prosecutor's
office as he did not have evidence that Polonsky had been
informed about the hearings, Lebedev told Reuters by telephone.
Polonsky was detained in Cambodia in January, accused of
assault and illegal detention after a separate incident on a
boat. He could face up to three years in prison if convicted.
"My lawyers and myself said we would like his rights to be
preserved," Lebedev said. "We are not looking for any
postponement or any lengthy period of the trial - I have been
involved in it already for 16 months."
Polonsky's lawyer was quoted by Russia's Ria Novosti news
agency as saying the return of the case to the prosecutor's
office was the result of Lebedev's lawyer using a procedural
loophole to postpone sentencing, without elaborating further.
Lebedev said he saw no other motive behind the judge's
decision and thought the judge was working "pretty fast really".
He anticipated that the trial would start in a few weeks.
The tycoon has previously predicted the trial would start in
February with a verdict likely in March or April.
(Reporting by Megan Davies; Editing by Pravin Char)