I don’t know the whole ins and outs of the embezzlement case against the Russian opposition blogger, Alexei Navalny, but I found it depressingly predictable that Navalny was found guilty of the charges and sentenced to prison. It raises more worrying questions on the independence of the Russian Courts and the extent to which the Russian state, in particular Putin, is cracking down on all form of dissent and opposition to the regime.
On a positive note, Navalny has been released, pending appeal, which means he can still stand as a candidate in September’s Moscow mayoral elections. The thousands of demonstrators which took to the streets last night protesting the guilty verdict - descending on Manezh Square and blocking traffic on Tverskaya - might have been a factor in the authorities allowing his release.
Navalny and his codefendant and business partner, Pyotr Ofitserov, stood accused of embezzling 16 million rubles ($490,000) worth of timber from a state-owned company in 2009, were found guilty of the charges and sentenced to five years in prison.
Many observers said was part of a politically motivated crackdown on dissent by the Kremlin, especially since Navalny was charged with the offences just one day after he was registered as a candidate for the Moscow mayoral elections.
There are many curious facts on this case which suggest that the charges were fabricated and the case against Navalny and Ofitserov were politically motivated – you can read more about this on The Medeleyev Journal Blog: http://russianreport.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/alexei-navalny-russian-anti-corruption-whistleblower-sentenced-to-prison/