Alexei Navalny: Russian jail term is condemned

Navalny's supporters have vowed to continue the struggle

The conviction and jailing of Russian protest leader Alexei Navalny has led to widespread criticism.
Navalny was imprisoned for five years for embezzlement from a timber firm. He had denied the charges, saying the trial was politically motivated.
The EU said the verdict posed "serious questions" about Russian law, while the US said it was "deeply disappointed".
Amnesty International denounced what it said was "a parody of a prosecution and a parody of a trial".
The 37-year-old had been a leading campaigner against President Putin's United Russia party, and regularly blogged about corruption allegations.
Before he was handcuffed and led away, Navalny urged his supporters to continue his anti-corruption struggle, tweeting: "Don't sit around doing nothing."
Navalny had recently registered his candidacy for the next mayor of Moscow, but his campaign team said that after the verdict he was withdrawing from the race, and called on his supporters to boycott the vote.
'Parody of a trial'
The BBC's Moscow correspondent Daniel Sandford says that when the sentence was handed down, there were tears from Navalny's supporters and an explosion of anger on the social networking sites that he has used so effectively.
Anti-Putin activist and former cabinet minister Boris Nemtsov told reporters the trial was "completely fabricated from start to finish, and even the judge could not say what the reason for the crime was".
The US ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul, said: "We are deeply disappointed in the conviction of Navalny and the apparent political motivations in this trial."
A spokesman for the EU's top foreign policy official, Catherine Ashton, said the embezzlement charges were unsubstantiated, and that Navalny's jailing posed "serious questions as to the state of the rule of law in Russia".
Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia director, John Dalhuisen, said in a statement: "This was a parody of a prosecution and a parody of a trial.
"It demonstrates how the Russian authorities abuse criminal prosecutions to persecute government critics and suppress political opposition and civil activism. This fits into the broader crackdown on the freedoms of expression, association and assembly under way in Russia today."
Navalny's supporters in Moscow have vowed to stage protests against the verdict later on Thursday.
'Don't get bored'
Navalny arrived at the courtroom in Kirov to hear the verdict after a 12-hour overnight train journey from Moscow.
Our correspondent said Navalny smiled in a resigned manner when the almost inevitable guilty verdict came.
Alexei Navalny (3rd R) stands in a courtroom in Kirov on July 18, 2013Alexei Navalny (centre) took a 12-hour train journey to Kirov for the verdict.
His wife, Yulia Navalnaya, said her husband knew he would get a non-suspended sentence and was mentally prepared to go to prison.
Navalny was found guilty of heading a group that embezzled timber worth 16m rubles ($500,000; £330,000) from the Kirovles state timber company while working as an adviser to Kirov's governor Nikita Belykh.
The prosecution had asked for a six-year jail sentence, but judge Sergei Blinov decided on five years, and said there were no extenuating circumstances that would warrant keeping Navalny out of prison.
Navalny's co-accused, Pyotr Ofitserov, was also found guilty, and given a four-year jail sentence.
State television has only shown limited interest in the process despite Navalny's prominence, but online the trial has been followed extensively.
Mr Navalny came to public attention when he inspired mass protests against the Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin in December 2011.
Judge Blinov said he found the testimony of the main prosecution witness, Vyacheslav Opalev, to be "trustworthy and consistent''.
Navalny insists that Mr Opalev spoke against him out of revenge, because Navalny had recommended he be fired and his company investigated for corruption.
After the verdict, Navalny tweeted: "So that's it. Don't get bored without me. Most importantly, don't sit around doing nothing."
In an unusual step, the court allowed the whole trial to be broadcast live online.
He is now one of the key figures of the opposition - a thorn in the side of the political establishment, campaigning against the endemic corruption, our correspondent says.
Mr Navalny has also coined a phrase to describe the ruling party United Russia that has stuck in everyone's minds - "the party of crooks and thieves".

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