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Russian Court Declines To Jail Kremlin Critic Navalny

Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny talks to the media before a hearing at the Lublinsky district court in Moscow on May 13.

A Moscow court has turned down a request by Russian prison officials to replace outspoken Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny's suspended sentence with a prison term.

Moscow's Lyublino district court ruled on May 13 to leave in place Navalny's five-year suspended sentence following his 2013 embezzlement conviction that he calls politically motivated.

Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service had asked the court to incarcerate Navalny, saying his political activities since sentencing amount to a "systematic disturbance of public order."

Navalny is currently serving two suspended sentences following convictions on theft and embezzlement charges.

He and supporters say the prosecutions are groundless and are part of a Kremlin campaign of retribution for his opposition activities.

Prosecutors supported the bid by prison officials to put Navalny behind bars, citing several administrative violations he has been found guilty of since the theft conviction in December.

In its May 13 ruling, the Lyublino court extended Navalny's probation period in the 2013 embezzlement case for three months.

Navalny told the court that he was a "law-abiding citizen" who "did not violate any public order."

Following the ruling, he joked on Twitter that the court ruled he was "too good" to be jailed.

Navalny is a prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and was a driving force behind street protests in Moscow in 2011-12.

He and his brother Oleg were found guilty in December of large-scale theft from two Russian firms between 2008 and 2012. Aleksei Navalny was given a 3 1/2-year suspended sentence, while Oleg Navalny is serving a 3 1/2-year prison term at a penal colony in Russia's Oryol region.

Navalny's recent efforts have been aimed at uniting Russia's disjointed array of opposition parties ahead of Russia's 2016 parliamentary elections.

Last month, Navalny and his Party of Progress joined ranks with the political party of slain Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov in a bid to form a democratic alliance and overcome years of bickering.

With reporting by RIA Novosti, Interfax, and Ekho Moskvy
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