[QODLink]
Europe

Russian protest leader freed temporarily

Alexei Navalny released from custody but placed under travel restrictions pending appeal of jail sentence.

Last Modified: 19 Jul 2013 09:33
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
After the ruling, Navalny thanked supporters, thousands of whom staged a protest on Thursday [Reuters]

A Russian court has temporarily released protest leader Alexei Navalny from custody, but placed him under travel restrictions while he awaits the outcome of an appeal against his five-year jail sentence.

The court ruled on Friday that keeping Navalny in custody would deprive him of his right to stand in mayoral elections in Moscow on September 8.

Prosecutors had unexpectedly asked for Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin's biggest critics, to be allowed to await the appeal decision at home in Moscow after his conviction on theft charges in the city of Kirov.

The move could be intended to appease opposition activists who protested in their thousands against the verdict in several cities on Thursday, and to head off the danger of social unrest.

Supporters of the 37-year-old anti-corruption campaigner marched on a local prison following the ruling in Russia's northern Kirov region that found Navalny guilty of stealing $500,000 from a state timber company.

Police arrested at least two protesters in a standoff.

"I am very grateful to all the people who supported us, all the people who went to [protest in Moscow's] Manezh Square and other squares," Navalny said on Friday, rushing across the court to hug his wife after he was released from a glass courtroom cage.

"We understand perfectly well what has happened now. It's an absolutely unique phenomenon in Russian justice," he said in the court in Kirov, an industrial city 900km northeast of Moscow.

'A disturbing trend'

The Kremlin has not responded to calls for comment on the verdict and said nothing about Friday's ruling.

The United States and European Union voiced concern over Navalny's conviction, saying it raised questions about the rule of law and Russia's treatment of Putin's opponents. The White House called it part of a "disturbing trend aimed at suppressing dissent."

Navalny, who emerged as a prominent opposition leader last year during anti-Putin protests, had planned to run as a candidate to be Moscow mayor in September against Sergei Sobyanin, a Putin favourite.

If the sentence stood, it could bar also bar him from running in the 2018 presidential election, in which Putin, Russia's dominant leader for 13 years, could try to extend his rule until 2024.

Navalny kept a low profile in the days before the trial verdict, which follows the handing down of a posthumous guilty verdict for whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky by a Russian court earlier this month.

Magnitsky died during pre-trial detention after accusing interior ministry officials of corruption.

382

Source:
Agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
Thousands of Houthi supporters have called for the fall of Yemen's government. But what do the Houthis really want?
New ration reductions and movement restrictions have refugees from Myanmar anxious about their future in Thailand.
US lawyers say poor translations of election materials disenfranchise Native voters.
US drones in Pakistan have killed thousands since 2004. How have leaders defended or decried these deadly planes?
Residents count the cost of violence after black American teenager shot dead by white Missouri police officer.
join our mailing list