Published: Thu, February 09, 2017
World | By Tasha Manning

Putin critic Alexei Navalny given five-year suspended jail term

A Russian court found opposition leader Alexei Navalny guilty Wednesday in a retrial of his embezzlement case, barring a 2018 presidential run.

A court has upheld the verdict of the first trial in 2013 that Mr Navalny led a group that embezzled timber worth 16m roubles (£330,000) from a Kirov state timber company while working as an adviser to the region's governor.

"We will continue our campaign and fight for the best Russian Federation in spite of the sentence dictated by the Kremlin", Navalny tweeted after Wednesday's verdict.

"You can come over and see that the judge is reading exactly the same text, which says a lot about the whole trial", Navalny said, adding that even the typos in the two verdicts were the same.

After the sentencing, Navalny told reporters he planned to continue to oppose corruption in Russian Federation. But after massive rioting in Moscow, the sentence was later reduced to suspended.

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Anyone convicted of a serious crime in Russian Federation is automatically barred from running in elections. Navalny claims the case against him is political. He is "known for his anti-corruption campaign, which targeted senior officials close to the Kremlin", according to the BBC. Vladimir Putin is allowed by the constitution to run for a second consecutive six-year term, but he has not said yet if he plans to do so.

The lengthy retrial of Navalny became more complicated in 2016, when the European Court of Human Rights ruled that his right to a fair trial had been violated. They are right to do so: "we will win".

But political analyst Alexander Morozov said that letting Navalny stand would be too much of a "big risk" as Putin must eventually start casting an eye towards finding a potential successor.

Critics described the trial as "a copy of the first", alleging that the case had been rushed in a bid to stop Navalny's presidential aspirations. This was the same year he ran for mayor of Moscow, and the charges were widely considered to be part of a smear campaign run by the Kremlin, which prefers its opposition candidates to not be quite so oppositional.

The end of Navalny's latest trial comes as another member of Russia's marginalized opposition, Vladimir Kara-Murza, is in a coma with organ failure after suffering an "acute poisoning" last week, his wife said.

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