Source AP ©

Lawyer of Berezovsky says he is innocent

The lawyer of Boris Brezovsky, accused of embezzlement, said in trial that he believed his client was innocent.

"I share his (Berezovsky's) opinion on this case," Alexander Dudkin told reporters after a Moscow court postponed the start of the trial until Aug. 21 to allow him more time to finish reading the voluminous case files.

Dudkin was appointed after Berezovsky ordered his own lawyers not to take part in the trial, which he calls a politically motivated farce.

The court-appointed lawyer's support for his client was somewhat unexpected, given the Kremlin's control of the judicial system and its determination to prove its case against Berezovsky.

Berezovsky said he wasn't surprised by the lawyer's remarks.

"He's made the same conclusion of lawyers I employ," Berezovsky said in a telephone interview. "It just confirms that this story was made in the Kremlin, not in reality."

The billionaire businessman has been granted political asylum in Britain, which has refused Russian requests to extradite him. He will be tried in absentia.

Berezovsky has said in the past that the trial is part of an effort by Russian authorities to divert attention from the poisoning death in London of Alexander Litvinenko, an associate of Berezovsky's.

Berezovsky is charged with embezzling 214 million rubles, about US$8.4 million (Ђ6.1 million) at today's exchange rate, from Aeroflot in the 1990s, and laundering some of the money. He is also charged with fraud.

A former Kremlin insider, Berezovsky fled to Britain in 2000 to avoid prosecution in the Aeroflot case. He also faces possible prosecution in Russia over his alleged calls for the government to be overthrown.

He could be sentenced to 10 years in prison if convicted in the embezzlement trial.

Berezovsky's confrontation with the Kremlin deepened over the poisoning of Litvinenko, who died in November after ingesting radioactive polonium-210.

Before he died, Litvinenko blamed Putin for his poisoning, as has Berezovsky; Kremlin allies have suggested Berezovsky could have had the former KGB officer killed in order to blacken Putin's reputation.

Russia's refusal to extradite Andrei Lugovoi, whom British prosecutors have named as the chief suspect in the Litvinenko killing, to Britain has led to a diplomatic dispute.

On July 13, Brazil issued a warrant for Berezovsky's arrest on money-laundering charges in a case involving a Brazilian soccer team. Berezovsky called the warrant "an extension of the Kremlin's politicized campaign against me."

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