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Court begins hearing defamation suit brought by Vladlen Stepanov against blogger Aleksei Navalny


9 September 2011

Today Moscow’s Liublinsky district court began hearing the defamation suit brought by businessman Vladlen Stepanov against the blogger Aleksei Navalny. 

The blogger Aleksei Navalny in court at the hearing of the defamation suit 
brought against him by Vladlen Stepanov. © Photo Georgy Alburov (@alburov).

Today Moscow’s Liublinsky district court began hearing the defamation suit brought by businessman Vladlen Stepanov against the blogger Aleksei Navalny. One of Aleksei Navalny's lawyers, Ramil Akhmetgaliev, legal analyst with the Agora Human Rights Association, spoke with the Open Information Agency correspondent. 

Today Vladlen Stepanov came to the court with a new lawyer. He had dismissed his previous lawyer because, the businessman said, he had not lived up to his expectations, the Open Information Agency correspondent reports. The position taken by the claimant has also changed.  Now he is asking that a refutation be published of his alleged involvement in the theft of 5,5 billion roubles, and demands a refutation of six statements made in a video published on Aleksei Navalny’s blog. These phrases concern the family of Stepanov, the transfer of sums of money, the purchase of property and Stepanov’s spouse, from whom, the businessman stated today, he divorced at the beginning of the 1990s.

“We objected to the claims,” the lawyer Ramil Akhmetgaliev pointed out. “The fact is, that at the last court hearing the claimant refused, through his legal representative, to accept evidence set out in Aleksei Navalny’s blog and in the video, as inaccurate. He withdrew some of the claims, and this withdrawal was accepted by the court. Today, however, the claimant has practically made these very claims again - on the same basis and against the same defendant. The law forbids a claimant to bring similar demands if he has already withdrawn them on a previous occasion. But the court accepted them as "additional details". I think the court has decided to consider this case in as wide a perspective as possible, given its high profile nature. We were ready to rebut one set of claims, but today we are faced with a different set. So if until now what has been at issue is the one question of the involvement or non-involvement of Stepanov in the embezzlement of government funds, now there are six points at issue. For that reason we have asked for time to prepare our objections and the necessary evidence.

The next court session will be held on 16 September 2011.

Background: Vladlen Stepanov brought a defamation suit against the blogger Aleksei Navalny demanding that the latter pay him 1 million roubles in moral damages. Initially Stepanov stated that Navalny had disseminated information to the effect that he, Stepanov, had been involved in the theft of more than 5 billion roubles of budgetary funds, as discovered by the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who subsequently died in pre-trial detention. At the first hearing of the case on 29 August Stepanov’s lawyer had requested that the court increase the sum of damages by 100 roubles to 1,000,100 roubles. When the defendant did not ask the court to postpone the hearing as a result of the increase in the sum claimed, the claimant’s lawyer himself asked the court to postpone the hearing on the grounds that Vladlen Stepanov was unwell.