Five weeks after winning a surprising 27 percent of the vote in the Moscow mayoral election, Aleksei Navalny was back in a Kirov court, 1,000 kilometers from the capital, waiting to hear if his five-year prison sentence for embezzlement would be upheld.
At his trial in July, the Kremlin critic joked with followers
throughout the proceedings, until a judge finally convicted him on embezzlement charges. This time he appeared more grim.
Shortly before the ruling on his appeal, Navalny's spokeswoman tweeted this photo of him and his wife, Yulia, in the courtroom hallway.
But then, as the judge read his verdict, came an onset of tweets with just one word: "suspended."
The Russian regional court upheld the opposition leader's conviction, but handed down a suspended sentence
. Barring a successful appeal, Navalny will be prevented from seeking political office for at least five years, but will not go to prison.
Although opposition members expressed relief, there was renewed derision at the seeming arbitrariness of Russian justice.
A Buzzfeed reporter:
In July, a court imprisoned Navalny immediately after his sentencing, but he was freed at the request of the prosecutor 24 hours later, following a large protest in Moscow. The actions have been widely seen as politically motivated.
After Navalny's surprise showing in the mayoral election, the Kremlin appeared to be at an impasse over how to handle him. "The verdict means basically political isolation. Navalny can't travel freely at home or abroad," opposition activist Ilya Yashin tweeted. "And he can't take part in elections."
A lawyer for an anticorruption organization founded by Navalny played on a phrase from a well-known Soviet film. In "Prisoner of the Caucasus," the character Truce, on trial, nervously shouts
, "Long live our Soviet court, the most humane court in the world!"
In Andrei Mishchenkov's adaptation, "humane" is replaced by "suspended," which also can mean "conditional." "Long live our court. The most conditional in the world," he tweeted.
Of course, Navalny critics were upset about the court decision for other reasons. "I hope Navalny is cut into quarters," said Eduard Bagirov, a blogger and publisher with ties to the Kremlin, before the ruling.
"Damn, he wasn't cut into quarters," he tweeted after the verdict. "A big pity."
-- Glenn Kates