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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Prosecutors Want Trunov Disbarred

APIgor Trunov speaking at a 2002 news conference. Anna Lyubimova, whose father was at the Dubrovka siege, is at left.
Prosecutors said Thursday they want to strip lawyer Igor Trunov -- who is defending the banker charged with masterminding the murder of the Central Bank's former No. 2 official, Andrei Kozlov -- of his right to practice law for disclosing confidential information, they say.

The comments Trunov made that are now in question involved another suspect, Liana Askerova.

Last week, Trunov said the only evidence prosecutors had against his client, Alexei Frenkel, was Askerova's testimony. Prosecutors say Trunov's open discussion of the case is illegal, given that the case is ongoing.

"To be honest," Trunov said Thursday in an interview, "I'm happy about this announcement. It means I'm doing my job."

Trunov added that he had made his remarks about Askerova before he signed a confidentiality agreement, as required by the Basmanny District Court. He dismissed prosecutors' call for his disbarment as little more than a legal tactic.

"It's a form of pressure from prosecutors that deflects attention away from the fact that my client was beaten and denied food and water," Trunov said.

Trunov earlier said the beatings inflicted on Frenkel were so serious as to leave him with "heart pains" and "trouble sitting down."

Trunov added that the prosecutors' actions amounted to "an attack on freedom of speech and human rights."

The Prosecutor General's Office refused to comment.

Prosecutors have no case against Trunov "if he made the statement before signing the agreement," said Genri Reznik, the president of the Moscow Chamber of Lawyers, which will rule on Trunov's fate. Reznik was speaking on Ekho Moskvy radio.

Relatives of those killed in the 2002 Dubrovka theater siege held a news conference Thursday to show support for Trunov. Trunov represented the relatives when they sued the federal government following the siege, in which 125 people died; government forces released a deadly gas into the theater during the standoff and later did not reveal the nature of the gas to doctors treating those who had been inside.

Revoking Trunov's right to practice law will "negatively impact, first of all, the victims of Nord-Ost," said Dmitry Milovidov, referring to the musical that theatergoers were watching when terrorists occupied the theater, RIA-Novosti reported.

Milovidov is a member of a support group for survivors of the siege and relatives.

Frenkel was charged Wednesday by prosecutors with organizing Kozlov's murder. Kozlov, the former first deputy chairman at the Central Bank, had sought to clean up the banking industry.

Askerova was charged Friday with involvement in the killing.

Trunov, 45, is probably one of the most controversial lawyers in modern Russia.

He boasts a string of high-profile cases that, with the exception of the Kozlov case, have included scraps with the authorities and extensive media coverage. Representing loved ones of many who have died in tragic -- and possibly avoidable -- accidents, Trunov has made a name for himself as an advocate for the bereaved.

He also represented relatives who sued Moscow's city government after the roof of the Transvaal water park collapsed in 2004, killing 28, and relatives of those killed when a Sibir Airlines plane skidded off the runway last year in Irkutsk.

Other Trunov clients have included people duped out of apartments that they paid for but never received.

Turning to his legal strategy, Trunov said: "Of course, the media are important to me." He added that he was working to help foster a more democratic Russia.

Boris Makarenko, a public relations analyst at the Center for Political Technologies, said Trunov used widely publicized cases to further his career.

Indeed, Makarenko said, this was why Trunov offered his services free of charge in the Dubrovka case. "Yes, he lost that case, but that came after a good fight, and he received heavy media coverage," Makarenko said.

Trunov has also had personal run-ins with the law. In 1993, before becoming a lawyer, he was sent to prison for 3 1/2 years after being convicted of involvement in a real estate scandal.