Aleksei Navalny, the Russian anti-corruption blogger whose popularity propelled him into the role of opposition leader, was convicted Thursday of embezzlement from a state-owned timber company and sentenced to five years in prison.
Navalny, 37, said the government had brought false charges and used a show trial to silence him.
Last month he filed papers to run for mayor of Moscow. Thursday’s conviction disqualifies him from political office.
Navalny famously labelled the ruling United Russia party as ‘the party of crooks and thieves.’
Last year, he led mass demonstrations against the Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin.
In 2010, he published what he said was evidence of a $4 billion fraud at Transneft, the state-owned giant that transports more than 90% of the oil produced in Russia.
Navalny’s criminal trial was held 500 miles from Moscow, in the city of Kirov. He was charged with embezzling about $500,000 from a state-owned timber company when he served as a government advisor.
Before he was handcuffed and led away, the BBC said, Navalny urged his supporters to continue his anti-corruption struggle, tweeting: ‘Don’t sit around doing nothing.’
U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul said, ‘We are deeply disappointed in the conviction of Navalny and the apparent political motivations in this trial.’
EU foreign policy official Catherine Ashton said through a spokesperson that the charges against Navalny were unsubstantiated and his jailing raised ‘serious questions as to the state of the rule of law in Russia,’ the BBC reported.
Philippe Lalliot of the French foreign ministry said Navlany’s conviction and sentence should be reviewed on appeal.
Richard L. Cassin is the Publisher and Editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.