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Russia court upholds opposition leader's conviction, suspends sentence

A Russian appeals court on Wednesday upheld the embezzlement conviction of Alexei Navalny, President Vladimir Putin's chief political opponent, but suspended his five-year jail sentence, allowing him to walk free. Navalny was sentenced [JURIST report] to five years for embezzling 16 million roubles (USD $500,000) from a timber firm in the Kirov region in 2009. While Navalny may have succeeded in securing his freedom, the upheld conviction will prevent him from running [BBC report] in Russia's next presidential election, scheduled for 2018. Standing outside the courthouse following his hearing, Navalny stated [Reuters report] Navalny pledged to remain involved in Russian politics.

Russia has cracked down on dissent recently. In June the UN released a letter from human rights experts voicing their concern [JURIST report] that two Russian non-governmental organizations have been charged by Russian prosecutors following their involvement with the UN Committee against Torture [official website]. In May a Russian court rejected an appeal [JURIST report] by members of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot [RASPI backgrounder; JURIST news archive] against their sentence for a protest against Putin. Earlier in May the EU expressed concern [press release, PDF] since its adoption last November. The law requires non-governmental organizations and non-commercial organizations to register as foreign agents if they engage in any political activity or receive foreign funding.

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