FILE - Russian theater and film director Kirill Serebrennikov waits for the start of hearings in a court in Moscow, Russia.
FILE - Russian theater and film director Kirill Serebrennikov waits for the start of hearings in a court in Moscow, Russia.

MOSCOW - A judge in the trial of Russian theater director Kirill Serebrennikov and his co-defendants wants to send the controversial embezzlement case back to prosecutors.

Judge Irina Akkuratova said at the trial on Wednesday that the texts of the official charges contained "inconsistent and controversial clauses" and therefore she was inclined to send the whole case back to the prosecutor's office. She made no further comment.

The judge first ordered a new study of evidence in the case in April and then extended the deadline for such a study in June. In August, Akkuratova noted that experts had been unable to establish that state money allocated for Serebrennikov's projects was misused.

The 50-year-old and his three co-defendants are accused of embezzling up to $2 million in state funds granted from 2011 to 2014 to Seventh Studio, a nonprofit organization established by Serebrennikov.

Serebrennikov's August 2017 arrest drew international attention and prompted accusations that Russian authorities were targeting cultural figures who are at odds with President Vladimir Putin's government.

Serebrennikov, who has taken part in anti-government protests and voiced concerns about the growing influence of the Russian Orthodox Church, has denied wrongdoing and dismissed the charges against him as absurd.

Serebrennikov and two co-defendants – producer Yury Itin and former Culture Ministry employee Sofia Apfelbaum – were released from house arrest under an April 8 court decision, but ordered to remain in Moscow.

The other defendant, Aleksei Malobrodsky, is not under house arrest but is also barred from leaving Moscow.