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Russia court begins preliminary hearings in Berezovsky embezzlement case

[JURIST] A Moscow court Thursday initiated preliminary hearings for exiled business tycoon Boris Berezovsky [Wikipedia profile; JURIST news archive] who is accused of embezzling millions from Russian national airline Aeroflot [corporate website], granting Berezovsky's court-appointed lawyer a two-week postponement of further proceedings so that the defense can prepare for the case. Berezovsky, who has been residing in the UK since 2001 as a political refugee and who will be tried in absentia, has denied the allegations and refused to use his lawyers to represent himself, calling the charges politically motivated.

Berezovsky fell out of favor with Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website] after vocally opposing the war in Chechnya [Wikipedia backgrounder]. Russian authorities have demanded that the UK extradite Berezovsky [JURIST report], who is also facing charges of allegedly plotting a coup [JURIST report]. Last Friday, Russia criticized the UK [JURIST report] for its refusal to prosecute Berezovsky on charges of inciting terrorism overseas with calls to overthrow Putin by force. [Guardian interview] AP has more.

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