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According to the prosecution, in 2009, Aleksey Navanly, who at the time worked as a pro-bono aide to then-governor of the Kirov region, Nikita Belykh, convinced the management of the state-owned company Kirovles to sign a contract with a firm owned by another suspect in the case, Pyotr Ofitserov. The contract terms were meant to embezzle budget funds, the charge stated, and resulted in multimillion-dollar fraud.
The investigation continued on and off from August 2009 and went to trial in 2013. It resulted in the convictions of both defendants and followed by a long appeals process, eventually reaching the Russian Supreme Court and the European Court of Justice, which ruled in 2016 that Russia had violated Navalny and Ofitserov’s rights to a fair trial.
The Russian Supreme Court scrapped the outcome of the first trial in December 2016 and ordered new proceedings. The retrial came to a close today with a new guilty verdict and a 5-year suspended sentence.
RT is reporting the following details:
In the opening statement of the proceedings, Judge Aleksey Vtyurin said that Navalny “organized the crime” and was “acting out of profit motives.”
During the retrial Prosecutor Sergey Bogdanov asked the court to hand Navalny a five-year suspended sentence. He also asked for Ofitserov to be given four years suspended, and for the pair to be fined 500,000 roubles each (about $83 000 at current rate). The prosecutor’s request mirrored the original sentence passed by the Leninsky District Court in 2013.
Navalny asked the court for a full acquittal, “otherwise we will have to go through this all over again because the new sentence will again be vacated as unlawful,” he said. Ofitserov’s defense lawyers also requested a full acquittal for their client.
The retrial came as Navalny declared his aspirations to run for the Russian presidency in 2018. He has previously tried to gain election to several public offices, including that of mayor of Moscow in 2013 – when he scored 27 percent of votes in an ultimately unsuccessful campaign.
In his closing statement, Navalny pledged to carry on his presidential campaign regardless of the sentence. He also said that he was sure that many of the people who attended the trial would vote for him. “I do not recognize this sentence, I am innocent and this sentence will not stop my election campaign,” he said at the conclusion of his speech.
Under Russian law, a person with a criminal record cannot run for president for 10 years after a guilty verdict, unless it is scrapped by a higher court.
While Navalny’s supporters, most of whom reside either in Moscow or abroad, claim that the case was politically motivated and meant to punish him for being a prominent opposition figure, the truth of the matter is that his prominence is mostly self-proclaimed and he poses no real threat to the current pro-Putin establishment.
Navalny, who’s a professional blogger, is a prime example of a self-hating Russian – an individual whose values and views on his own country align more with those of US Russophobe John McCain than with his own people.
The sad reality is that Navalny is known and adored more outside of Russia than he is in his own country. The vast majority of the Russian people either don’t know of his existence or consider him a sellout, the West’s useful idiot, or a demagogic liberal thug.
No true Russian patriot would ever vote this man into office, and none ever will.