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Anti-Putin activist Navalny 'temporarily released'

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-07-19

A Russian court on Friday ordered the temporary release of protest leader Alexei Navalny until an appeal against his five-year jail sentence is heard. Navalny was convicted of embezzlement in what he says was a politically motivated trial.

A Russian court temporarily released opposition leader Alexei Navalny from custody on Friday, but placed him under travel restrictions, while he awaits the outcome of an appeal against his sentence to five years in jail.

Prosecutors unexpectedly asked for Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin’s biggest critics, to be allowed to await the appeal decision at home in Moscow after his conviction on theft charges in the city of Kirov.

The move could be intended to appease opposition activists who protested in their thousands against the verdict in several cities on Thursday, and to head off the danger of social unrest. Dozens of people were detained during the rallies.

But FRANCE 24’s Moscow correspondent Shaun Walker doubted the Kremlin feared the protesters, saying “that’s not how Vladimir Putin works.”

Walker instead pointed out that this release from custody meant that Navalny could probably run in Moscow’s mayoral election against the Kremlin’s man and current mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, on September 8, and it was possible that the Kremlin thought it useful that Navalny stand.

“There is a theory going around that some parts of the Kremlin want Navalny in this election, because they don’t think he can win and they believe it would give the election some legitimacy if there is a real candidate,” Walker said.

In less than two years Navalny, 37, rose from obscure blogger to spearhead of the opposition, denouncing the ruling United Russia party as a “party of chooks and thieves.”

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-07-19

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