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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Briton's Trial Delays Protested

The British Embassy plans to send a letter of protest over delays in the trial of a 19-year-old Briton convicted last year of trying to smuggle cocaine through Sheremetyevo Airport, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.


The retrial of Karen Henderson was delayed for the second time in a month Tuesday, prompting plans for an official letter to the Foreign Ministry, said Patricia O'Donnell, a spokeswoman for the embassy. The text of the letter was being drafted Tuesday, she said.


Henderson was arrested in February 1996 after customs authorities found 4.5 kilograms of cocaine hidden in her suitcase. She pleaded innocent to smuggling charges but was sentenced last October to six years in a labor camp.


She was later granted a retrial on the grounds that a court-appointed interpreter at the original trial did not translate witnesses' statements and key points of evidence accurately.


Henderson's retrial began Oct. 1, but was recessed until Tuesday after prosecutors asked for time to call more witnesses. On Tuesday, Judge Natalya Arinkina ruled that the case be delayed again due to the absence of one of Henderson's lawyers.


"Today, the hearing of Henderson's case will not take place. Her lawyer is sick with flu," Arinkina said. "Her case is adjourned, presumably until Nov. 19."


Henderson's second lawyer, Karina Moskalenko, objected to the delay, saying the defense informed the judge it was ready to proceed with only one lawyer in order to speed up the hearing.


"It is not the situation we were wishing for but I was ready to do that," she said.


Moskalenko said it became clear later that the judge could not hear Henderson's case Tuesday because she was involved in another one.


Moskalenko said the judge's hint that the next hearing could take place earlier than Nov. 19 may indicate that Arinkina wants to limit press coverage of the case.


"When the case is adjourned, the exact day for the next hearing should be stated clearly," she said.


Henderson's mother, Patricia, flew in from Britain to attend the hearing and looked visibly distressed after hearing about the adjournment.


"We are very disappointed. We are tired of flying in and out. And certainly it is even worse for Karen, who feels that things are becoming too difficult to cope with at times," she said.After spending most of her 19 months of custody in Moscow's notorious Butyrskaya Prison, Henderson has been transferred to a new women's detention center in southern Moscow, where she shares a cell with around 50 inmates.


A Dutch woman traveling with Henderson in 1996, Suzanne Vortenborsch, 23, confessed to smuggling 4.5 kilograms of cocaine in her luggage. She is serving her six-year sentence in a foreigners' prison colony in Mordovia, 700 kilometers east of Moscow.