TV punch-up court case held up

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IOL pic jan15 scales gavel Independent Newspapers .

Moscow - 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. - Reuters

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