Federal Government Human Rights Commissioner Markus Löning today (18 July) commented as follows on the judgement of the court of first instance against Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny:
I am deeply shocked by the criminal proceedings and the verdict against Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny. The way the proceedings were conducted and the harsh sentence handed down are further proof of the Russian judiciary’s lack of independence. With this verdict, Russia has moved yet another step away from democracy and the rule of law.
With its decision the court has struck a fresh blow against Russia’s critical opposition. I call upon the Russian judiciary to release Alexei Navalny and guarantee that second instance proceedings are conducted in a fair way in accordance with the rule of law. It must be possible for Alexei Navalny to remain politically active.
I call upon the authorities in Moscow to allow the expected protests and demonstrations against the verdict.
Prominent Russian oppositional blogger Alexei Navalny, who is also running as a candidate for the post of Moscow mayor in the 8 September elections, was found guilty by the court of first instance today (18 July) of having brokered unfavourable contracts for a state‑owned enterprise selling timber to a private company while working as an adviser to the governor of the Kirov region. The damage incurred is claimed to be some 500,000 euros. Navalny was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment while the owner of the private company involved, Pyotr Ofitserov, was given a four‑year sentence. Observers see the trial as politically motivated. If the verdict becomes final, Navalny would be excluded from running for the mayor’s office.