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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny jailed

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny jailed
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He was full of smiles in the courtroom, but Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has just been sentenced to five years jail for theft.

The sentence was tougher than expected and it means he won’t be able to contest the 2018 presidential election, as planned.

Many in the opposition have criticised the charges as being politically motivated.

Navalny campaigned widely against corruption in Russia.

Former Deputy Prime Minister of Russia and current opposition activist Boris Nemtsov believes the sentence was a move to silence Navalny’s criticism of Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.

“There wasn’t a single argument made that proved Navalny conducted anything other than usual business deals. There was no proof that he stole 16 million roubles [worth of property]..It’s a reprisal, a political reprisal,” he said.

Navalny’s wife Yulia Navalnaya spoke to reporters after the trial:
“If anyone thinks that Alexei’s investigations will cease, they’re wrong. The Foundation for the Fight Against Corruption [Navalny’s organisation] will continue its work.”

Navalny is charged with organising a scheme to siphon off at least 16 million roubles – that’s 375 000 euros – from a local timber firm when he was advising the Kirov region governor in 2009.

Protestors outside the courtroom were angry.

“Yes, it is my personal pain. And it is the pain of our whole country. They’ve jailed the last honest man from opposition,” said Navalny supporter Svetlana Uvarkina.

Supporters of Navalny marched from the courthouse to the prison where he may spend the next five years.

They see the sentence as an act of political repression by President Putin; an attempt to stifle Navalny’s exposure of high-level corruption.