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Lex lingua Language dispute postpones Gazprom trial

The Gazprom corruption trial has been postponed until spring 2016

(Keystone)

A corruption trial involving four people with alleged ties to Russian energy giant Gazprom was adjourned on Monday after a dispute over the language to be used in the Swiss courtroom. 

The trial of four executives – three Russians and a Frenchman accused of pocketing $7 million (CHF7.2 million) via false consultancy contracts – was due to open at the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona on Monday. 

But the trial was postponed until March 21, 2016 after a dispute over the language to be used in court. Three of the four lawyers from Geneva spoke in French, but the language typically used for court debates is German. 

The judge refused to admit the lawyers’ French statements in the court protocol. Simultaneous translation in Russian was also planned for the accused. 

The French-speaking lawyers criticised a violation of the Confederation’s basic principles: that the accused and lawyers have the right to express themselves in one of Switzerland’s four official languages – French, German, Italian or Romansh. 

The trial was postponed until next spring so that the accused have time to choose German-speaking lawyers to represent them. 

swissinfo.ch with agencies

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