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Navalny’s lawyer says court has requested a copy of verdict showing theft of budgetary funds took place


16 September 2011

Blogger Aleksei Navalny in court at a hearing of the lawsuit 
brought against him by Vladlen Stepanov. 
© Photo Georgi Alburov (@alburov).

On 16 September the hearing of the defamation suit brought by entrepreneur Vladlen Stepanov against the blogger Aleksei Navalny continued at Moscow’s Liublinsky district court.

“Vladlen Stepanov claims that allegedly Aleksei Navalny personally affirmed that Stepanov was personally involved in the theft of budgetary funds and accused him of committing theft and fraud,” said Ramil Akhmetgaliev, one of Navalny’s lawyers and an associate of the Agora Human Rights Centre, after the court hearing. “On the other hand we contend that, on his LiveJournal page, Navalny published his opinions about video and other materials posted on the website ‘The Untouchables’. Navalny is not the author of this video and therefore no claims can be made against him on this account. In justifying our position we requested the court obtain a number of materials from various government bodies, including from outside Russia. The court upheld our request in part, asking the Moscow registry office to provide evidence about the date of marriage of Vladlen Stepanov. The court also at our request demanded documentary evidence concerning the income of Mr Stepanov in the period 2002 - 2009 and asked Moscow’s Tver district court for a copy of the verdict confirming that the theft of budgetary funds did take place.

The next hearing in this case will take place on 17 October 2011 at Moscow’s Liublinsky district court, Open Information Agency reports.

Vladlen Stepanov is suing the blogger Aleksey Navalny for 1 million roubles in compensation for moral damage for defamation. Initially, Stepanov claimed that Navalny had disseminated information about his complicity in the theft of over 5 billion roubles of government funds, uncovered by the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who died in prison. At the first hearing on 29 August a lawyer representing Stepanov asked the court to increase the amount of compensation by 100 roubles, to 1,000,100 roubles. When the defendant did not request that the hearing be postponed in connection with the increased amount of compensation, the claimant's representative asked that the hearing be postponed due to Vladlen Stepanov's illness.

On 9 September Stepanov attended the hearing with a new lawyer. The position taken by the claimant has changed. Now, he is no longer demanding the publication of a refutation of his complicity in the theft of 5.5 billion roubles but rather the denial of six quotations from a video film posted on Aleksei Navalny's blog. The statements concern Stepanov's family; transfers of funds; a property purchase; and Stepanov's wife from whom, as the entrepreneur announced today, he has been divorced since the early 1990s.