Russian prosecutors drop jail threat against tycoon Lebedev

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 28, 2013 3:57 AM
Russian prosecutors drop jail threat against tycoon Lebedev

MOSCOW (Reuters) - State prosecutors asked a Moscow court on Friday to restrict media magnate Alexander Lebedev's movements for 21 months for punching a rival on a TV talk show but did not demand a jail sentence.

Lebedev, backer of British newspapers The Independent and London Evening Standard, says the trial is the Kremlin's revenge for his criticism of the government and co-ownership of a Russian newspaper hostile to President Vladimir Putin. He also sees it as a warning to other Russian tycoons.

In its summary at Lebedev's trial, the prosecution said he should be found guilty of political hatred, barred from moving house or changing job without permission and not allowed to take part in or organize public events for a year and nine months.

The judge could still impose a tougher sentence if he convicts Lebedev of hooliganism and battery, charges which carry a possible jail term of five years, but this is unlikely after the prosecution's summary. The verdict is due on Monday.

Lebedev, 53, has been on trial since early May over the brawl in 2011, when he leapt out of his chair and threw punches at property developer Sergei Polonsky during the recording of a television chat show.

Lebedev acknowledges he was involved in a brawl but denies the charges of hooliganism and political hatred. He sat cross-legged and in silence as the prosecutor spoke, tapping away on his tablet computer, and was expected to speak in court later.

He is rare among oligarchs in speaking out against the Kremlin since the imprisonment of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was arrested in 2003 after he fell out with Putin. His Yukos oil company was broken up and sold off.

(Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova,; Additional reporting by Megan Davies; Writing by Timothy Heritage; Editing by Douglas Busvine)