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Lawyer of wanted Klebnikov case defendant seeks trial in absentia

MOSCOW, March 21 (RIA Novosti) - A lawyer for the wanted defendant in the murder case of the Forbes Russia chief editor said he wanted the suspended trial to continue despite his client's absence.

The Moscow City Court suspended hearings of the Paul Klebnikov murder case after one of the two defendants, Kazbek Dukuzov, failed to appear in court March 14. The court issued a warrant for Dukuzov's arrest.

"We have appealed with the Supreme Court of Russia against the decision to suspend the trial," Alexander Chernov said, adding that the defense team had also appealed against the ruling to place Dukuzov in custody.

Chernov said Dukuzov was in the hospital in his home republic of Chechnya, and had not turned up in court because he had not been informed of the court session.

"We were told at the court session that no subpoenas or telegrams had been sent to Dukuzov, and that he had not been notified otherwise," Chernov said.

A U.S. journalist of Russian descent, Klebnikov, 41, worked for Forbes was the first editor of Forbes Russia launched in April 2004. He had gained an international reputation for investigating murky business dealings and corruption in the post-Soviet era. Klebnikov was killed when leaving his office in central Moscow in July 2004.

Dukuzov and another defendant in the Klebnikov murder case, Musa Vakhayev, were released from custody in May after a Moscow court found them not guilty of murdering the Forbes editor. But the Supreme Court overturned the acquittal in November and ordered a retrial.

A third suspect, Fail Sadretdinov, was also cleared of murder charges last May, but sentenced in January to nine years in prison for property fraud in a separate case relating to his work as a public notary.

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