Alexei Navalny: Russian opposition leader ‘found guilty’

Russia’s main opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, has been found guilty of embezzlement, local media report.

A judge is still reading the verdict in the city of Kirov, but news agencies said it was clear in his remarks that Mr Navalny had been convicted.

Even a suspended sentence would bar him from running for president next year.

An outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, Mr Navalny has denied the accusations, saying the case is politically motivated.

A sentence in the retrial, ordered after a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, may take hours to be read out.

Prosecutors had asked the judge to hand Mr Navalny a five-year suspended sentence.

Who is he?

Mr Navalny, 40, is known for his anti-corruption campaign, which targeted senior officials close to the Kremlin. He says the case against him is an effort to keep him out of politics.

He had recently stepped up his political activity after announcing plans last year to run for the presidency in 2018. Mr 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.

Mr Navalny’s rise as a force in Russian politics began in 2008 when he started blogging about alleged malpractice and corruption at some of Russia’s big state-controlled corporations.

He described the president’s United Russia as “the party of crooks and thieves”, a phrase that stuck among many in Russia.

He stood for Moscow mayor in 2013 and got more than a quarter of the vote, a surprise for many.

What are the accusations?

In the first trial, in 2013, Mr Navalny was found guilty of heading a group that embezzled timber worth 16m roubles ($500,000; £330,000) from the Kirovles state timber company while working as an adviser to Kirov’s governor, Nikita Belykh.

He was then given a five-year suspended sentence. But the verdict was overturned by the Russian Supreme Court last year following a judgment by the European Court of Human Rights that he was not given a fair hearing at the first trial.

Russian opposition politician and anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny attends the verdict in his trial for embezzlement at the Leninsky Court in the city of Kirov

At the start of the verdict, judge Alexei Vtyurin said the court had established that Mr Navalny had “‘organised” the embezzlement from the timber firm.

Under Russian law, he would be banned from running for office for 10 years if convicted of a serious crime.

What has the reaction been?

Mr Navalny told journalists during a break in the judge’s reading that the judgment was a replica of the first trial.

“So far the new verdict and old verdict are 100% comparable, including all the commas, spelling mistakes and even the order in which they put out testimonials. Everything was taken from the old verdict.

“It’s wonderful and says a lot about this trial,” he said, jokingly.

Asked if Mr Navalny’s absence from the presidential race would undermine the legitimacy of the election, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters before the verdict session:

“We believe any concerns about this are inappropriate.”

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