UPDATE: Hearing of Khodorkovsky appeal postponed

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MOSCOW, September 14 (RIA Novosti) - The Moscow City Court postponed the hearing of the appeal against the verdict on the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former CEO of the embattled Yukos company, and his partner Platon Lebedev until 4p.m. (12a.m. GMT).

The decision to postpone the hearing, first until 2p.m. and then by another two hours, came after the court said Prosecutor Dmitry Shokhin and Khodorkovsky's lawyer Genrikh Padva had provided conflicting documents.

The court read out a document which said Padva had been taken to hospital two days ago. "I can't defend myself without a lawyer who knows every detail of my case," Khodorkovsky said.

Shokhin argued that Padva's hospitalization had been planned, not an emergency. "I think we can proceed in Padva's absence," he said.

Padva was the only lawyer with whom Khodorkovsky had concluded a contract on appealing his sentence.

Lebedev, 42, the head of Yukos's core shareholder Menatep group, was brought to court despite his refusal in June to participate in the appeal process in person.

Commenting on his decision, Lebedev then said: "I understand only too well that I have and will have no opportunity to defend myself against falsified accusations and the inescapably unfair verdict in the appeal process."

Lawyers for Khodorkovsky, 42, and Lebedev filed an appeal against all charges with the Moscow City Court on June 9 after the Meshchansky District Court sentenced them to nine years in jail for fraud and tax evasion on May 31.

If the court rejects the appeal, Khodorkovsky's sentence will come into force and he will be unable to stand for the Duma (lower chamber) by-elections due this December. If his sentence comes into force after he is elected, only the Duma will have the right to strip him of his immunity.

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