Court throws out prosecutor request to arrest Putin critic
Top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Thursday narrowly avoided the prospect of arrest after a judge shot down a request from prosecutors to detain the leader of Russia's opposition movement.
Navalny, 37, is standing trial for embezzlement in the provincial city of Kirov in what his supporters say is a politically motivated case aimed at silencing him.
Earlier Thursday a prosecutor said that Navalny had skipped the hearing and requested that he be arrested. The judge however denied the request, saying that prior to Thursday's hearing Navalny had regularly participated in the trial.
The judge, Sergei Blinov, added however that Navalny had shown contempt for the court by not showing up and would have to be brought in by force for the next hearing on Monday.
Navalny did not appear in the Kirov court because he had to be in Moscow to present himself for questioning over another criminal case against him.
Following the judge's decision, the anti-corruption blogger said he was sure he would not be arrested.
"Otherwise, why did they let me leave the building of the Investigative Committee?" Navalny tweeted.
He is currently under pledge not to leave the country.
Himself a lawyer, Navalny said he was following the court proceedings online, calling them "entertaining."
"Too bad there is no popcorn," said the blogger known for his wry sense of humour.
The charismatic anti-corruption crusader is accused of causing a loss of half a million dollars to a regional government in a timber deal in a case his supporters say aims to silence him.
The timber case, which went to trial in April, is just one of several criminal probes against the opposition leader.
Navalny says he expects to be convicted and is ready to go to jail. He denies all charges against him, saying the Kremlin wants to muzzle him.
Even if Navalny gets a suspended sentence, by law he would not be able to run for elected office.
He has publicly declared his ambition to run for president and has said the Putin regime could collapse within the next two years.
© 2013 AFP