A regional court in Russia has upheld an embezzlement verdict for opposition leader Aleksei Navalny and his co-defendant, Pyotr Ofitserov, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Navalny and Ofitserov were not present at the May 3 hearing at the Kirov regional court in central Russia, but were represented by their lawyers, RFE/RL reported.
Navalny and Ofitserov had filed an appeal after a retrial of their case on February 8 found them guilty of embezzlement and sentenced to five years and four years in prison, respectively.
The retrial came after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in February last year that the 2013 trial in the case, when exactly the same verdicts and sentences were handed to o Navalny and Ofitserov, violated the defendants` right to a fair trial.
According to the ECHR ruling, the Russian court found the men ”guilty of acts indistinguishable from regular commercial activity.”
Both Navalny and Ofitserov have maintained their innocence, and Navalny said the charges against him were politically motivated and aimed at preventing him from running for president.
Navalny announced in December that he would run for president in a March 2018 election in which Vladimir Putin – in power as president or prime minister since 1999 – is widely expected to seek a new six-year term.
Navalny was convicted of fraud in a separate case in 2014 and given a 3 1/2-year suspended sentence.