KIROV, April 25 (RAPSI) - The attorneys of renowned whistleblower Alexei Navalny, who is charged with embezzling more than $514,000 from a timber company have accused presiding judge of misconduct, RAPSI reports from the courtroom on Thursday.

The judge has violated the principle of equality of arms, lawyer Olga Mikhailova said. "The witness Vyacheslav Opalyov was questioned without the participation of the defense attorneys and his written testimony was taken into consideration before the defense lawyers were able to put their questions to him," she said.

"The court has thus deprived the defense team of the opportunity to question the witness and has violated our rights," she added.

Navalny also said the court's actions lost him the possibility of questioning the key witness.

The lawyers asked their objections to be included in the minutes of the hearing.

According to investigators, while serving on a voluntary basis as an adviser to the Kirov region governor, Navalny organized the theft of over 10,000 cubic meters of timber. It was allegedly stolen from Kirovles company between May and September 2009 in collusion with Vyatka Timber Company Director Pyotr Ofitserov and Kirovles CEO Vyacheslav Opalyov.

The regional budget is estimated to have suffered the loss of 16 million rubles ($514,140) as a result.

If convicted Navalny along with Ofitserov faces up to ten years in prison, and will be ineligible for public office even if slapped with probation. Opalyov, who has entered into an agreement with the prosecution, got 4 years suspended sentence.

Navalny is a Yale-educated political activist. He became famous in Russia as a whistleblowing blogger striving to expose corrupt practices. He then gained recognition for his leading role in the opposition movement that rocked Russia from late 2011 to mid-2012.