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Trial of Russian dissident is stayed due to ill health

Judge noted the defendant ‘kept falling asleep’ in court before earlier trial was halted.

The trial of a Russian dissident accused of making and possessing thousands of indecent images of children has been stayed due to his ill health.

Vladimir Bukovsky, 75, denies five counts of making indecent images of children, five of possessing indecent images of children and one of possessing a prohibited image of a child.

The trial had been fixed for the third time at Cambridge Crown Court when Judge Gareth Hawkesworth granted the application to stay proceedings on Monday.

Mr Bukovsky was not in court during the brief hearing, which was due to be the start of his trial.

A first trial in 2016 was halted as Mr Bukovsky was admitted to hospital after its second day, and a second trial fixed in 2017 did not go ahead as he was again taken to hospital shortly before its planned start.

Francis FitzGibbon QC, defending, said Mr Bukovsky had “serious illnesses of the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys”.

Judge Hawkesworth said that before the first trial was halted, Mr Bukovsky “kept falling asleep physically in front of the jury”.

He said: “I’m quite satisfied that due to the continued deterioration in his health… when it came to the moment whether Mr Bukovsky should or could give evidence we would be faced with a wholly impossible situation.

“It wouldn’t be fair to try the man in those circumstances.”

He granted the defence’s application to stay proceedings, which was invited by prosecutor William Carter.

“All matters will lie on file and cannot be revived without leave of this court or the Court of Appeal,” said Judge Hawkesworth. “If his health recovers sufficiently for him to stand trial the matter could be revived.”

Russian-born Bukovsky, an author and activist who became well known internationally as a vocal critic of the Soviet regime, returned to the UK from Germany to face the charges.

He had been receiving private medical treatment abroad, and is listed at a Cambridge address in court records.

Lawyer Maia Cohen-Lask, representing Mr Bukovsky, said in a statement released after the hearing: “Vladimir Bukovsky has always strongly denied the allegations against him, and continues to do so.

“He has spent the last three years of his life fighting these charges.

“However, today’s judgment recognises that he is simply far too ill to be able to participate in the trial process and defend himself effectively.

“This is the right outcome in circumstances where no trial of Mr Bukovsky, given the state of his health, could have been a fair one.”

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