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Russian court postpones dead man's trial as defense, like defendant, fails to show

Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP

Police officers stand near an empty defendant's cage in a courtroom in Moscow on March 11, 2013. The court postponed the trial of Sergei Magnitsky, a dead lawyer who accused law-enforcement authorities of massive corruption and whose case sparked a dispute between Washington and Moscow.

Mikhail Voskresensky / Reuters

Flowers lie near the grave of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in the Preobrazhensky cemetery in Moscow on March 11, 2013.

Journalists crowded into a packed Moscow courtroom on Monday to witness a legal first: the first prosecution of a dead person in Russian history. But the case was postponed as the absence of defendant Sergei Magnitsky — who died in 2009 — was compounded by the non-appearance of his legal team.

Magnitsky is charged with tax evasion and fraud — similar to accusations that he had leveled against police and tax officials — in a case that sparked a dispute between Washington and Moscow when Congress passed a law named after Magnitsky.

"The defense team ... believes that they have not yet fully acquainted themselves with the 60 volumes of case materials,"  Judge Igor Alisov said, looking down on the barred cage usually reserved for the accused and the empty seats where Magnitsky's lawyers should have sat. Alisov postponed the trial until March 22.

-- Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report