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European Court Rules Russia Violated Navalny's Right To Fair Trial

Aleksei Navalny welcomed the ruling, saying in a statement that "the time will come when we can obtain justice in a Russian court, and not only in the ECHR.”
Aleksei Navalny welcomed the ruling, saying in a statement that "the time will come when we can obtain justice in a Russian court, and not only in the ECHR.”

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Russia violated opposition leader Aleksei Navalny's right to a fair trial, and has ordered the government to pay him 56,000 euros (61,700) in legal costs and damages.

A leading foe of President Vladimir Putin, Navalny was convicted of embezzlement in 2013 in a trial he called politically motivated.

He and a former associate in Kirov, Pyotr Ofitserov, were found guilty of organizing the theft of 16 million rubles ($500,000) from a timber firm in 2009 and handed prison terms of five years and four years, respectively, which an appeals court later commuted to suspended sentences.

"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," the ECHR ruling said, noting that the Russian courts had found them "guilty of acts indistinguishable from regular commercial activities."

Navalny, 39, welcomed the February 23 ruling, in which Ofitserov was a co-complainant.

"The time will come when we can obtain justice in a Russian court, and not only in the ECHR,” Navalny said in a statement.

"The truth is on our side, and we will win, because we are doing precisely what we are celebrating today: defending the fatherland from the thieves and scoundrels that have seized power in Russia," Navalny said, referring to the February 23 holiday honoring past and present military personnel.

Navalny said the ruling would oblige Russia's Supreme Court to overturn his conviction.

But Russia passed a law last year claiming the right to disregard ECHR rulings if they conflict with the national constitution.

There was no immediate reaction from officials in Russia, where it was a national holiday on February 23.

Navalny rose to prominence by publishing details of what he alleges are corrupt dealings by Russian officials and executives at state-owned companies.

He became a driving force behind antigovernment street protests in Moscow in 2011-12 and garnered some 27 percent of the vote in the 2013 Moscow mayoral election, losing to Kremlin-backed incumbent Sergei Sobyanin in a ballot he called rife with fraud.

Navalny's conviction in the Kirovles timber-company case was the first of two that he and his critics say are part of a Kremlin campaign of retribution for his opposition activities.

He received a second suspended sentence after he and his brother Oleg were convicted in December 2014 of large-scale theft from two Russian firms between 2008 and 2012.

Oleg Navalny was handed a 3 1/2-year prison term that the opposition leader says authorities are using to pressure him into halting his anticorruption crusade.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
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