A Russian judge has confirmed the sentences for a prominent Kremlin critic and his brother, rejecting the prosecution's plea for Alexei Navalny to be sentenced to 10 years in prison. Navalny expects new charges.
An appeals court in Moscow on Tuesday upheld the three-and-a-half-year suspended sentence against opposition blogger and political activist Alexei Navalny. Navalny was accused of embezzling 30 million rubles (roughly $475,000 at the current rate). The judge also confirmed the decision concerning his younger brother Oleg, who was convicted to three and a half years in prison in the same case.
The prosecutors had called for a harsher ruling for the two brothers, calling for Alex Navalny's sentence to be changed to ten years in jail and for an eight-year prison term for his brother.
The court also rejected the defense appeal for the Navalny brothers to be cleared of charges, and annulled a 500,000-ruble fine Navalny was due to pay.
"The fine was annulled in relation with procedural faults" court spokeswoman Uliana Solopova said.
The prosecution was not satisfied by the court's decision and is considering a fresh appeal.
Detained by police
As of Tuesday, Navalny is no longer under house arrest, which was ordered by the court after the verdict last December.
The political activist has repeatedly breached the terms of his house arrest and was detained by police this weekend for "attempting to cause public disturbance," while he and his supporters were distributing leaflets inviting people to an anti-government protest in Moscow.
Navalny's supporters believe the embezzlement trial to be politically motivated.
Speaking to reporters after the court decision, he said that he would continue his involvement in politics, and that he assumes he will be facing new charges soon.
"I will continue everything I was doing. Maybe even with more energy, because now there is extra personal motivation," he said.
"My brother is still a hostage," he added, referring to the court's decision to uphold the prison sentence for his younger brother.
Navalny was a prominent leader during the 2011-2012 mass protests in Moscow, and had run for the mayor of the Russian capital. He is also involved in organizing anti-government protest in several Russian cities in March.
dj/msh (Reuters, AP, Interfax)