Lawyer persuading Cambodian sailors to accept Polonsky's apologies

The defense of Russian businessman Sergei Polonsky, who was arrested in Cambodia, will appeal for modifying the criminal charge and releasing the Russian suspects, Polonsky's former partner for foreign projects Sergei Vladi told Interfax by phone from Cambodia on Thursday.

"The defense intends to appeal for reviewing the case merits and to argue that the conduct of the suspects carried no elements of a crime. Their conduct may be defined as petty hooliganism, use of excessive force in self-defense. We will search for a way out. If it is a petty offense, the suspect shall be released immediately," Vladi said.

In his words, Polonsky replaced his lawyer on Wednesday and the new lawyer started to study the case.

"The lawyer is scrutinizing the case. He is communicating with the offended parties. As far as I know, he is meeting with them and trying to agree on their acceptance of Sergei's apologies. We do not rule out that if he approaches the judge and explains the essence of the case in an expert way, the judge may decide to release them on bail and their own recognizance," the ex-partner said.

There was no malicious intent in the conduct of the Russians; there was a misunderstanding with the ship crew members, he said.

"There are no elements of a crime. There was no intent in the actions of Sergei or Karachinsky or Baglay. They did not plan to beat anyone. They did not plan to lock up anyone. Obviously, they had a misunderstanding with the crew that got frightened. Everyone was acting practically in the heat of passion," Vladi said.

Meanwhile the Russian Foreign Ministry insists on conducting an objective investigation of the situation that led to the detention of businessman Sergei Polonsky and two other Russian citizens in Cambodia.

"Considering the gravity of the charges, we believe in the necessity of a thorough and objective investigation, the clarification of all the circumstances of the incident. The embassy has sent a corresponding query to the Foreign Ministry of Cambodia," a commentary of the Foreign Ministry information and press department circulated on Wednesday says.

The commentary says that Moscow is closely following the developments. "The Russian Embassy in Phnom Penh is in touch with the Cambodian authorities, and guarantees the protection of the rights and interests of our citizens. The detainees have been provided with a lawyer and interpreter," the commentary says.

Last week the local media reported that Polonsky and two more Russians were arrested in Sihanoukville on December 31, 2012 in line with a court ruling. The reports said six local sailors picked up three Russians near the island of Ko Rong, from where they had intended to return to the mainland, on Dec. 29. According to the victims, Polonsky threatened the captain of the vessel with a knife and locked him up in a cabin and made several crew members jump in the water.

Last Saturday, it was reported that the court in Sihanoukville extended Polonsky's arrest for an indefinite period of time.

On Monday, a posting appeared on Polonsky's Facebook page saying that the businessman is determined to insist on a prosecutor's probe.

"I could be released in 15 minutes, if I pleaded guilty. But I will get out only if I am fully acquitted because I am not to blame for what happened," Polonsky wrote.

The Russians may be sentenced to up to three years of jail on charges of intentional bodily damage and illegal detention.

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