[JURIST] Moscow’s Zamoskvoretsky District Court announced an early verdict on Tuesday, giving opposition activist Alexei Navalny [personal website, in Russian; JURIST news archive] a suspended sentence of 3.5 years for embezzlement, and ordering him to stay under house arrest until the sentence takes effect. The court also sentenced [RT report] his brother, Oleg Navalny, to 3.5 years in prison. The Navalny brothers were charged [Russian Legal Information Society report] with embezzling approximately 30 million rubles (USD $518,000) from cosmetics company Yves Rocher Vostok [corporate website] and the Multidisciplinary Processing Company (MPC) by a fraud scheme between 2008 and 2012. Both brothers were fined 500,000 rubles (USD $8,500) and together must pay 4.4 million rubles (USD $76,000) to MPC. The spokesperson for the European Union (EU) [official website] issued a statement [text] claiming that the guilty verdicts seem to be politically motivated.
The charges against them have not been substantiated during the trial . . . . The EU stresses the importance of judicial decisions to be free from political interference, independent, and in full compliance with the rule of law. In anticipation of announced public actions tonight in Moscow, the EU expects that all parties concerned will show restraint.
This sentence was issued two weeks earlier than the original January 15 date, when Navalny’s supporters had planned a political protest of over 17,000 people. Navalny broke house arrest to join a smaller political rally around the Kremlin after the release of his verdict, but he was promptly detained.
Russia has cracked down on dissent recently. In April a Moscow district court held [JURIST report] that Navalny was guilty of slander. Last November a Moscow court ruled [JURIST report] the Russian government could seize Navalny’s assets. Last October a Russian appeals court upheld [JURIST report] Navalny’s previous embezzlement conviction but suspended his five-year jail sentence, allowing him to walk free. Last 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.