Russian Opposition Leader Sentenced to 5 Years
A Russian court on Thursday sentenced opposition leader Alexei Navalny, a Moscow mayoral candidate and vocal Kremlin critic, to five years' jail time on embezzlement charges, RIA Novosti reported.
The court, in the city of Kirov, about 900 kilometers (560 miles) east of Moscow, found Navalny guilty of organizing the embezzlement of about $500,000 worth of lumber from state-owned company KirovLes.
The conviction, unless overturned upon appeal, will prevent him from running for public office.
Navalny, a whistle-blowing blogger well-known for leading mass protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin, has denounced the charges as politically motivated.
Prosecutors earlier this month requested that Navalny get six years in prison and a fine of 1 million rubles ($30,000). The court upheld the fine request Thursday.
The only co-defendant in the trial, Pyotr Ofitserov, was also found guilty and sentenced to four years in prison. A long-time acquaintance of Navalny's, Ofitserov ran the Vyatka Timber Company and was accused of willingly buying KirovLes timber at below-market prices, thus taking part in the alleged embezzlement scheme. For Ofitserov, prosecutors had been seeking a five-year prison sentence and a 1 million-ruble fine.
Both defendants have pleaded not guilty. Navalny's supporters have pledged to hold a demonstration in downtown Moscow on Thursday evening.