Wed, 23 Oct 2019

A Russian judge has ordered a new study of evidence in the case against theater director Kirill Serebrennikov and his co-defendants and postponed the next hearing in their trial for two months.

The announcement on April 15 appeared to be a victory for the defense, which had questioned financial information provided by prosecutors in the high-profile case.

Meshchansky district court judge Irina Akkuratova ordered a 'comprehensive' evaluation of financial, artistic, and other information relating to the case and set a June 17 date for the next hearing at the Moscow court.

Serebrennikov's August 2017 arrest drew international attention and prompted accusations that Russian authorities were targeting cultural figures who are at odds with President Vladimir Putin's government.

The 49-year-old director and three co-defendants are accused of embezzling up to 133 million rubles ($2 million) in state funds granted from 2011 to 2014 to Seventh Studio, a nonprofit organization that Serebrennikov established.

Serebrennikov, who has taken part in antigovernment protests and voiced concerns about the increasing influence of the Russian Orthodox Church, has denied wrongdoing and dismissed the charges against him as absurd.

Serebrennikov and two co-defendants -- producer Yury Itin and former Culture Ministry employee Sofia Apfelbaum -- were released from house arrest under an April 8 court decision but ordered to remain in Moscow.

The other defendant, Aleksei Malobrodsky, is not under house arrest but is also barred from leaving Moscow.

In her remarks on April 15, the judge said that the new study was needed to examine 'the specific circumstances of the case' against the defendants.

According to Mediazona, an independent news outlet that specializes in developments in Russia's justice system, it should address detailed questions about the financing of specific projects, as well as other matters related to the case.

It said that one of the Justice Ministry experts who will conduct the study has expressed doubt that Serebrennikov and his colleagues at Seventh Studio embezzled money.

With reporting by Mediazona, Interfax, Meduza, and TASS

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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