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Russian Opposition Leader Sentenced to Five Years

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was sentenced to five years in prison after being found guilty on charges of embezzlement.

Navalny was convicted Thursday of embezzling $500,000 worth of timber from a state-owned company, while working as an adviser to a provincial governor in 2009. His co-defendant Pyotr Ofitserov was sentenced to four years in prison.

The opposition leader, who has exposed alleged government corruption, says the charges are politically motivated and are intended to silence him.

His lawyer, Olga Mikhailova, said Thursday's verdict was a re-write of the prosecution's statement.



"The first thing is that the verdict was copied from the prosecution statement - word for word in some places. I believe the court did not add anything to prosecution argumentation, so everything created in the depths of the Investigative Committee was voiced today by the court."



The U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, expressed deep disappointment about the "apparent political motivations" of the trial. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement that the charges had not been substantiated during the trial.

In a Twitter message posted from court, Navalny urged his supporters to continue his campaign, urging them not to get bored or idle.

Navalny's wife, Yulia, said his anti-corruption fund will continue its work despite the outcome of the case.



"As much as it was possible to be ready for this, Alexei was ready. I, and all our family, support him, have supported him and will support him in the future. If anybody hopes that Alexei's investigations will stop then this is not true. The Fund to Fight Corruption will work as before."



Navalny had recently registered to run for Moscow's September mayoral race, but his chief election official said he would pull out. Under Russian law, he is no longer eligible to run for any office including the 2018 presidential election, which he also planned to contest.



Earlier this year, Novaya Gazeta, an opposition newspaper researched the rulings of Judge Sergey Blinov who heard Navalny's case. All his verdicts were "guilty" in 130 rulings in an 18-month time period.

Last year, Navalny angered Mr. Putin by leading mass street demonstrations in Russia's capital.

He also helped organize mass protests starting in 2011 against alleged electoral fraud and Mr. Putin's return to the presidency.

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