Kremlin critic Navalny found guilty again

Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny has once again been given a five-year suspended prison sentence after being found guilty of fraud. The presiding judge upheld a first conviction handed down in 2013. Navalny was given a retrial after the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg described the first judgement as "arbitrary". Will Navalny be able to run for president in 2018 despite the sentence?

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Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Not even the semblance of rule of law

The renewed conviction of anti-Kremlin blogger Alexei Navalny is just another example of Russia's increasingly blatant disregard for the rule of law, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung criticises:

“In November the Kremlin angrily retracted its signing of the treaty on the International Criminal Court after the latter's head prosecutor described the annexation of Crimea as a belligerent act. Ignoring higher-ranking legal opinions may be convenient, but it only further isolates the country. In the Navalny case Russia's courts didn't even try to give the appearance of fairness, Strasbourg ruled a year ago. This precisely sums up the facts: the more authoritarian Putin behaves, the less he cares about even making a show of due process. Instead his despotic regime isn't even trying to hide its satisfaction either from Navalny or the West.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Opposition as good as outlawed

The Navalny case is another example of how opposition figures are systematically persecuted and disempowered in Russia, De Volkskrant notes:

“It's striking that Putin has created a climate in the past years in which the opposition has pretty much been outlawed. In the pro-government press and on state television critics are often described as the 'fifth column', meaning traitors. Putin underscored the feeling of impunity when he awarded a medal to the man who according to a British judgement murdered Alexander Litvinenko by poisoning him with radioactive polonium. The long list of political murders, all of which were committed against members of the opposition, should give the Western admirers of the Russian president's strongman style pause for thought. But when 'alternative facts' rule the day, decency, freedom and the lives of others clearly don't count for anything.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Navalny not out of the running yet

Navalny has announced that he will run for president in March 2018 despite the conviction. He may well be able to do so too, La Repubblica explains:

“The law bans anyone who has been convicted of a serious crime from running for office. The constitution, however, acknowledges this law only in the case of prison sentences but for suspended sentences. Navalny (who has said he will appeal the verdict) wants to dispute this contradiction in court. … Before the verdict many observers were convinced that in order to give the presidential election at least the appearance of legitimacy Navalny wouldn't be prevented from running. … The first trial against Navalny [in 2013] ended with him being sentenced to prison. The people took to the streets and one day later the court revoked its sentence and Navalny was released. Putin himself is said to have intervened.”