MOSCOW, April 26 (RAPSI) – The Leninsky District Court in Kirov granted the request on Friday of opposition activist and blogger Alexei Navalny, who is currently on trial on embezzlement charges that he says are politically motivated, to take a vacation during the upcoming court recess, a RAPSI correspondent reported from the court.
Judge Sergei Blinov granted Navalny's request to allow him to spend the week from May 7 to 14 on vacation in Russia’s Astrakhan Region with his family.
The court also granted permission to Pyotr Ofitserov, the second defendant in the case, to travel to the southern Russian region of Kaluga from May 1 to 5.
Prosecutors had objected to the requests, saying it would be impossible to determine the defendants’ whereabouts.
The next court session is scheduled for May 15 back in Kirov, an industrial city some 500 miles (800 kilometers) northeast of Moscow.
Navalny and Ofitserov, a former political ally, are charged with heading a criminal group that investigators say embezzled 16 million rubles’ ($500,000) worth of timber from state-run company Kirovles in the Kirov Region in 2009. Both men deny the charges. Ofitserov called the accusations “absurd,” in court on Wednesday. Navalny, who became a figurehead of the large-scale anti-Putin demonstrations that swept Russia in late 2011 and early 2012, has repeatedly said the charges are politically motivated and that he expects a guilty verdict, citing Russia's extremely low rate of acquittals in criminal cases (less than 1 percent).
If convicted, Navalny and Ofitserov face up to 10 years in prison. Under Russian law, even a suspended sentence would leave Navalny, who recently expressed his desire to become Russia’s president, unable to run for public office.
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Some people are trying to make the reality in Russia at least a bit more humane. The amnesty should apply not only to persons involved in high-profile cases, but also to individuals who are not as well-known. It is better to set free at least some of the individuals who deserve to be released than no one at all.