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Russian Court Finds Putin Critic Alexei Navalny Guilty In Retrial

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks with supporters this weekend in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Elena Ignatyeva
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks with supporters this weekend in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Alexei Navalny, a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin's regime, has been found guilty of embezzlement in a case that he has said is meant to keep him from attaining political office — particularly, the presidential election.

As the findings were announced, Navalny, a popular blogger who gained a following for exposing corruption, tweeted images and comments from the courtroom — asking for donations and saying that Wednesday's verdict seemed to be copied from an earlier trial.

Posting selfies and images of his printed sentence, Navalny tweeted that his lawyer finds "even the typos in the first verdict to coincide with misspellings in a new sentence."

"The prosecutor has asked suspended prison terms for both — five years and four years respectively," state-run TASS media reports, referring, respectively, to Navalny and his co-defendant Pyotr Ofitserov.

It's the latest round of legal problems for Navalny, 40, who for several years has operated under the shadow of suspended prison sentences and house arrest.

In 2011, Navalny was arrested after leading rallies against a widely criticized parliamentary election. As NPR reported, he coined a phrase renaming Putin's ruling United Russia party "The party of crooks and thieves."

In 2012, Navalny was accused of stealing timber from a state-owned company called Kirovles. He was found guilty and handed a five-year suspended sentence — but the European Court of Human Rights later ruled that he deserved a retrial, and last November, Russia's Supreme Court overturned the sentence and ordered a new trial.

In 2014, Navalny and his brother were sentenced to three-year suspended prison terms over accusations that the pair defrauded French cosmetics company Yves Rocher in a shipping deal.

As NPR's Corey Flintoff reported at the time, "Company representatives later said Yves Rocher didn't suffer any losses."

After that 2014 verdict was delivered, Navalny stated, "This power doesn't deserve to exist — it must be destroyed. I call in everybody to take to the streets today. I call on everybody to take to the streets until this power that catches and torments innocent people is removed."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.