The trial of one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s biggest critics began today, only to be stopped after 45 minutes and delayed for a week.
Alexei Navalny, 36, a blogger and anti-corruption activist, is defending himself against charges that he stole more than $500,000 from a state-owned timber company in the provincial city of Kirov while he was adviser to the regional government in 2009.
The trial is taking place in Kirov, 900 miles northeast of Moscow, but more than 100 people accompanied Navalny on the 12-hour train trip from Moscow to support him, according to the Washington Post.
According to the Guardian:
The case is widely seen as a means of silencing the man who has become Putin's loudest critic.
After just 45 minutes today, judge Sergei Blinov announced that the trial would adjourn until April 24.
Navalny's legal team had asked for a postponement, claiming they were not given enough time to prepare. However, the delay was also seen as beneficial to the state, which would like interest in the case to die down, the Guardian noted.
"It seems that this is how this trial will be conducted – we will arrive and leave, arrive and leave," Navalny said after the hearing, according to the Guardian. "They are interested in making this trial so that everyone gets sick of it.”
If convicted, Navalny faces up to 10 years in prison or a suspended sentence, which would prevent him from running for political office, the Guardian reported.
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