Putin foe Alexey Navalny found guilty in retrial, threatening 2018 presidential run
Feb 09, 2017, 00:27
A Russian court has given the country's most prominent opposition leader a five-year suspended prison sentence for embezzlement in what critics say is a political trial meant to prevent him from running against President Vladimir Putin in elections next year.
A Kirov court judge found Alexei Navalny, 40, guilty of embezzlement and pronounced him the head of a criminal group that allegedly stole timber worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from a state-run company. During a break in proceedings Wednesday, Navalny said, "The judge will return and read the same thing [as in 2013], which says a lot about this trial".
His conviction came in a retrial after the European Court of Human Rights ruled the first trial to be unfair. Nevertheless, the activist has packed a bag in preparation to be taken into custody, he told journalists covering the trial.
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.
The investigation continued on and off from August 2009 and went to trial in 2013, which resulted in the convictions of both defendants.
Opposition politician Alexey Navalny waits before a hearing at the Leninsky District Court of Kirov on Wednesday. Under Russian law, a person can not run for president for 10 years after a guilty verdict, unless it is scrapped by a higher court, RT reported. Ofitserov's defense lawyers also requested a full acquittal for their client.
Late previous year, Navalny announced a plan to run for president in 2018, when Vladimir Putin's current term expires. He is "known for his anti-corruption campaign, which targeted senior officials close to the Kremlin", according to the BBC.
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.
"We will go on campaigning regardless of this verdict", he said in the courtroom.
"Russia's Constitution says that those kept in the places of detention are not eligible to run in elections".
"This is a direct action of the constitution - if he is not be imprisoned, he can participate in the elections", Olga Mikhailova said.
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