Alexei Navalny, Russian opposition activist, gets 5-year suspended sentence
Court decision complicates Navalny's plans to run for president next year
A Russian court on Wednesday handed a five-year suspended sentence to prominent opposition leader Alexei Navalny after finding him guilty of embezzlement, a move that will complicate his plans to run for president against Vladimir Putin in 2018.
Navalny, one of Putin's harshest critics, said he would appeal the sentence and take part in the presidential race regardless.
"We don't recognize this ruling," said Navalny. "I have every right to take part in the election according to the Constitution, and I will do so."
The court also fined Navalny 500,000 roubles ($8,400 US) after finding him guilty on embezzlement charges going back to 2012.
Judge Alexei Vtyurin handed down his 100-page decision and the sentence during a webcast retrial of Navalny in Kirov, 800 kilometres northeast of Moscow.
Navalny was first brought to trial in 2013 on the same charges and given a suspended sentence. That year, he ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Moscow.
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He has long argued this is a case of political prosecution meant to prevent him from running for president of Russia.
Navalny appealed his first conviction to the European Human Rights Court, which ruled last year that his rights to a fair trial had been violated. The Russian Supreme Court then dumped Navalny's sentence but ordered a new trial.
Last week in Kirov, he told CBC, "There are no ifs — of course they will find me guilty."
Russia's Interfax news agency reported that a guilty verdict technically disqualifies Navalny from running in the election set for March 2018.
Navalny will appeal the decision, his campaign director told CBC News. With a year to go before the presidential election, his supporters have said they're determined to help him run for office.
Navalny, the driving force behind massive anti-government protests in 2011 and 2012, had announced plans to run for office in December and had begun to raise funds.
Putin has not yet said whether he will seek a fourth term in office.
With files from CBC's Susan Ormiston and The Associated Press