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MOSCOW, September 20 (RAPSI/RIA Novosti) – Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who came in an impressive second place in recent elections for Moscow mayor, said Friday that the court date for his appeal of a contentious embezzlement conviction has been set for October 9.
Navalny, a politically ambitious anti-corruption blogger who helped organize large-scale anti-Kremlin protests in Moscow in 2011-2012, and an associate of his were convicted of embezzlement in July in connection with alleged wrongdoing at a state-run timber firm. They have called the charges politically motivated.
According to investigators, Navalny organized the theft of over 10,000 cubic meters of timber while serving as an advisor to Kirov Region Governor Nikita Belykh between May and September 2009; the crime, prosecutors said, was committed in collusion with Pyotr Ofitserov, then-director of the Vyatka Timber Company.
Navalny was sentenced to five years in a penal colony, and Ofitserov got a four-year sentence. The two were held liable to jointly pay a fine of 1 million rubles.
After a day in jail, both men were released from custody pending their appeal.
Navalny then took part, as planned before the conviction, in Moscow’s mayoral election on September 8, amid much speculation about why Russian authorities had allowed him to run. He garnered 27 percent of the vote, about 10 percentage points more than pollsters had predicted, with Kremlin-backed incumbent Sergei Sobyanin winning 51 percent – less than anticipated.
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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.