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Co-Defendant In Navalny Embezzlement Case Reported Dead

Pyotr Ofitserov at a session of the Supreme Court in Moscow on November 16, 2016
Pyotr Ofitserov at a session of the Supreme Court in Moscow on November 16, 2016

Pyotr Ofitserov, a businessman who was a co-defendant in one of the criminal cases against Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, has reportedly died at the age of 43.

Journalist Yevgenia Albats posted on Twitter on July 13 that Ofitserov had died, but she did not provide any details.

The independent news website Meduza also reported the news.

The daily Moskovsky Komsomolets reported on July 9 that Ofitserov had been hospitalized in serious condition with a concussion and head trauma. Doctors told the daily he'd suffered the injuries during a "fit" of unspecified nature.

In 2013, Ofitserov was convicted along with Navalny of embezzlement in the notorious Kirovles case. Navalny, his supporters, and many observers say the charges were trumped up in retaliation for Navalny's opposition political activity. Navalny was sentenced to five years in prison, while Ofitserov was given a four-year prison term.

In October 2013, the court suspended both sentences as part of the appeals process.

In 2016, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Kirovles trial was unfair and that the two men had been convicted of actions "indistinguishable from regular commercial activity."

The Russian Supreme Court then threw out the 2013 convictions and ordered a new trial. In February 2017, the lower court again convicted the two men and handed down the same suspended prison sentences.

Ofitserov left behind a wife and five children.

In his closing remarks during the 2013 trial, Ofitserov maintained his innocence and said that prosecutors probably would have let him go if he had been willing to testify against Navalny.

"I have five children -- three sons and two daughters," he said. "I know that if I made a deal, they would help me and that would be great. But, you know, when they grow up, they will ask: 'Papa, what happened? What did you do?"

With reporting by Meduza and Moskovsky Komsomolets
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