Europe court slams Russia's 'arbitrary' conviction of activist blogger
The European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday that Russia's conviction of opposition leader and blogger Alexei Navalny on charges of embezzlement was "prejudicial", saying he had been deprived of a fair trial.
The Strasbourg-based court said the 2013 conviction of Navalny and co-accused Pyotr Ofitserov, a businessman, was based on an "arbitrary application of the law".
"The trial court convicting the co-accused had worded its judgement in a manner that could only be considered prejudicial as regards (their) alleged involvement in the crime," it said, noting that the courts involved had found them "guilty of acts indistinguishable from regular commercial activities."
The court also ordered Moscow to pay damages of 8,000 euros ($8,800) to Navalny and Ofitserov, and to cover their court expenses.
Russia has three months to ask for another review of the case, but the European court is not obliged to grant it.
Navalny, 39, who has repeatedly denounced the corruption of Russian elites, lauded the decision on his blog.
"The truth is with us and we will win," he wrote, adding that he wants to "defend the country from the thieves and villains who seized power in Russia".
The activist was convicted for embezzling some 400,000 euros during a 2009 timber business deal for which he was acting as a consultant for the Kirovles corporation.
At the time of the deal Ofitserov was head of the trading company that allegedly sold the timber at below-market rates.
Investigators initially said that there was no case to be made against the applicants.
But several months later another investigation was opened into Navalny and Ofitserov's roles, with the courts convicting them one day after Navalny registered as a candidate for the Moscow mayoral elections.
An appeals court eventually granted the two men suspended prison terms.
Navalny began crusading against corruption in 2007. His Internet-driven projects -- Rospil.info and later the Anti-corruption Foundation (FBK) -- have exposed suspicious state contracts and the luxurious mansions of public officials both in Russia and abroad.
© 2016 AFP