YEKATERINBURG, August 12 (RIA Novosti) – A court in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg refused Monday to postpone the trial of a former local editor-in-chief accused of extortion, embezzlement and money laundering after she rejected her court-appointed lawyer.
Aksana Panova, the former head of the Yekaterinburg-based Ura.ru news agency, who faces up to 15 years in prison on a string of charges, asked the court to postpone her trial until August 19, claiming her chosen legal representative could not take part in the trial before that date.
But the court refused to wait for her lawyer Monday, saying Panova could be represented by another lawyer assigned by the court last week.
The court had to appoint that lawyer Wednesday after Panova’s two other lawyers had failed to attend the hearing. She has since refused to recognize the court-appointed lawyer, saying the court’s move was illegitimate.
Panova claims regional officials fabricated the charges against her in response to Ura.ru’s critical reporting.
She pleaded guilty in July to a tax-related offense.
Founded in 2006, Panova’s agency often ran reports about corrupt officials and police officers involved in shady deals in the Urals region, one of Russia’s leading oil producers and a major industrial center.
In mid-June, her website won four top prizes, including one for “best use of guerilla marketing,” at the Cannes Lions advertising and communications festival for its 2012 “Make the Politicians Work” campaign. The campaign, which exposed the lack of road repairs in Yekaterinburg, featured caricatures of the mayor, the governor, and the deputy mayor painted on rutted asphalt next to promises to fix the dilapidated roads.