Russia: Supreme Court Throws Out Navalny’s Conviction

Russia’s Supreme Court overturned the conviction of opposition politician and anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny on Wednesday, sending his case to a lower court for retrial.

Alexey NavalnyAlexei Navalny (Photo: Mitya Aleshkovskiy CC BY-SA 3.0)Russia’s highest court overturned Navalny’s 2013 conviction for embezzlement after a European Court of Human Rights ruling in February deeming his trial unfair, state news agency TASS reported.

The case against Navalny has been widely criticised as politically motivated, with the ultimate goal of barring the opposition figure from running for political office.

Navalny however said that, despite his conviction being overturned, Wednesday’s decision by the Supreme Court was designed to keep him tied up with a district court in the city of Kirov, northeast of Moscow.

"The case was examined exhaustively and today’s decision was carried out with one purpose – to force me to return to Kirov for consideration of the case and, thus, inhibit my political activities," Navalny was quoted as saying by TASS.

Navalny had previously been found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison for embezzling 16 million rubles (US$ 502,700) worth of timber from state-owned company Kirovles. During the trial, the judge’s verdict was almost identical to the prosecution’s complaint. Navalny’s conviction came two months before mayoral elections in Moscow, in which he was a candidate.

In a strange turn of events, the prosecution requested that he be released during his appeals process the very next day – a move interpreted by some commentators as motivated by protests in support of Navalny in Moscow. Navalny did not serve any more of his sentence.