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Russian court releases opposition figure Alexei Navalny pending appeal

July 19, 2013 at 7:00 AM   |   Comments

KIROV, Russia, July 19 (UPI) -- A Russian court released opposition figure Alexei Navalny from custody Friday pending his appeal of a conviction and prison sentence for embezzling.

The Russian Prosecutor General's Office requested Navalny's release until his sentence could be enforced, which would be in 10 days if he does not appeal, RIA Novosti reported.

On Thursday, Navalny was convicted in a Kirov court of orchestrating an embezzlement scheme in 2009 involving a state-owned timber company in the Kirov region. The whistle-blowing blogger, was sentenced to five years in prison.

He has maintained the case against him was politically motivated.

Navalny, 37, was released along with co-defendant Pyotr Ofitserov, who was sentenced to four years in prison for his role in the embezzlement.

Thousands of people rallied in central Moscow Thursday, protesting Navalny's conviction, RIA Novosti said. Police said they briefly held more than 200 demonstrators.

Navalny said he hasn't decided whether he will run in Moscow's mayoral election Sept. 8. If Navalny's conviction isn't overturned, he will be barred from seeking public office.

"I'm not a pet kitten or puppy who they have thrown out and then decided to release for a month before the election," he said. "I will make a decision with my campaign team after I get back to Moscow."

Western governments and human rights groups quickly condemned Navalny's trial and conviction, criticizing the Kremlin for selectively applying the law against political opponents.

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