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Russia: Court decides not to imprison Navalny - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny looks on before a court hearing in Kirov on October 16, 2013. (REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov)

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny looks on before a court hearing in Kirov on October 16, 2013. (REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov)

Kirov, Associated Press—A Russian court on Wednesday suspended a five year prison sentence for a top opposition leader but upheld his conviction for theft that will prevent him from running in future elections.

Alexei Navalny was convicted on embezzlement charges and sentenced to five years in prison on July 18, but was released from prison 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 percent 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, 460 miles east of Moscow, read out the decision on Wednesday. According to current Russian law, even a suspended sentence would eliminate Navalny from political office for life.

Navalny lambasted the trial, saying 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 RUB 16 million (USD 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.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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