Russia court fails to imprison Navalny

2013-10-16 13:38
Russian protest leader Alexei Navalny speaks in a court room. (Vasily Maximov, AFP)

Russian protest leader Alexei Navalny speaks in a court room. (Vasily Maximov, AFP)

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Kirov - A Russian court on Wednesday suspended a five year prison sentence for a top opposition leader but upheld his conviction for theft, preventing him from running in future elections.

Alexei Navalny was convicted on embezzlement charges and sentenced to prison on 18 July, but was released the next day in what some considered a ploy to make the Moscow mayoral race, where he was registered as a candidate, look as competitive as possible.

Navalny garnered an unexpected 27% against the Kremlin-backed incumbent. His growing public profile has made it increasingly risky for the Kremlin to put him behind bars.

A judge in the court in Kirov, 760km east of Moscow, read out the decision on Wednesday. According to Russian law, even a suspended sentence would eliminate Navalny from political office for life.

Navalny lambasted the trial, saying during the Wednesday session that the original sentence had been handed down "on instructions from Moscow" and that the "political motivation of this case is absolutely clear".

The charges against Navalny date back a few years to when he worked as an unpaid adviser to the provincial governor in Kirov. Prosecutors said he was part of a group that in 2009 embezzled $500 000 worth of timber from the state-owned company Kirovles. He has denied the charges.

Navalny, who spent much of the court session tweeting, was characteristically sarcastic and upbeat.


Read more on:    alexei navalny  |  russia

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