Trial Of Russian Opposition Figure Alexei Navalny

December 31, 2014 by  

Trial Of Russian Opposition Figure Alexei Navalny, A Russian court gave Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny a suspended sentence on Tuesday for embezzling money but jailed his brother for three and a half years in a case seen as part of a campaign to stifle dissent.

Navalny led mass protests against President Vladimir Putin three years ago, when tens of thousands took to the streets in Moscow and St Petersburg to protest against corruption in his government and inner circle. Opposition figures say jailing Navalny risked a new wave of protests and so it was decided to punish him by jailing his brother instead.

Navalny’s supporters will gather in front of the Kremlin later on Tuesday with some 17,000 people having registered on Facebook to attend although the numbers may be smaller as people prepare to celebrate the New Year. The authorities have not given permission for the rally so it is considered illegal and there maybe arrests.

The Navalny brothers, Alexei and Oleg, were accused of stealing 30 million roubles, around $500,000 at the current exchange rate, from two firms including an affiliate of the French cosmetics company Yves Rocher between 2008 and 2012.

Tuesday’s ruling will come as a relief for Navalny’s supporters after prosecutors asked that he be imprisoned for 10 years. The Kremlin denies allegations that it uses the courts to persecute opponents.

Officials have taken few steps to investigate Navalny’s corruption allegations. He claimed there was mass embezzlement, including in state bank VTB and pipeline monopoly Transneft, run by close allies of Putin.

“Aren’t you ashamed of what you are doing?” Navalny told the court and judge Yelena Korobchenko. “Why are you putting him (my brother Oleg) in prison? To punish me even harder?”

Currently under house arrest, Alexei Navalny is serving another suspended five-year jail term for a separate conviction last year, which critics also called a sham.

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