Skip to main content

Russian opposition leader Navalny freed pending appeal of 5-year sentence

By David Simpson and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
July 19, 2013 -- Updated 1129 GMT (1929 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Opposition leader Alexei Navalny thanks his supporters as he is freed pending appeal
  • He faces a 5-year sentence for misappropriating funds in a lumber deal
  • The conviction prevents Navalny from running for mayor of Moscow
  • Mikhail Gorbachev is among voices condemning his trial, conviction

(CNN) -- Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny emerged from detention Friday, vowing not to be manipulated like "a kitten or a puppy" by the prospect that he could run for mayor of Moscow while appealing a five-year prison sentence.

Navalny was released one day after a court in the city of Kirov found him guilty of misappropriating about $500,000 in a lumber deal when he was an adviser to the Kirov region's governor.

Navalny is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's most outspoken critics. He denies wrongdoing but had predicted he would be convicted to prevent him from running for mayor of Moscow.

In photos: Action man Putin

Speaking to reporters outside court, Navalny said he would return to Moscow to discuss his next steps with his staff, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Will Navalny conviction hurt opposition?
Pussy Riot husband describes Navalny
Khodorkovsky: Courts used to oppress

"Regarding my participation in the elections, I am not some kind of a kitten or a puppy to whom they first say it can't participate in the elections and then they say, 'let's release him for a while so he can participate in the elections,' " he said.

Read more: Russian court convicts whistle-blower after his death

Once in Moscow, he will decide whether to boycott the election or continue his campaign, he said, according to the news agency.

"We'll discuss it with the staff and with the volunteers. For now, I will stay a candidate, I am not retreating."

In posts on his Twitter feed, Navalny thanked his supporters, saying their determination had helped bring about the release of himself and fellow defendant Pyotr Ofitserov.

"Thank you everyone who came to protest in Moscow and other cities in the country," he added.

He said the route to change was first to want something, and then to do two or three simple things to make it happen.

"If we want and start doing -- then we'll have fair elections. If we want and start doing -- a real fight with corruption will start," he tweeted.

"We are already wanting strongly and have been doing for a while. We gather money, we talk to people, we go to protests, we do what is called 'politics in which all are welcome to participate.' "

Navalny and Ofitserov were released under travel restrictions, the Kirov court's press service said, which mean they can't travel overseas. This is customary in Russia.

'A parody of a prosecution'

Navalny's conviction and sentencing Thursday prompted wide condemnation.

The European Union's top diplomat, Catherine Ashton, called the trial a sham. And former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev issued a statement saying the case "unfortunately confirms that we do not have an independent judiciary."

Navalny has been a prominent organizer of street protests and has attacked corruption in Russian government.

Rachel Denber, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia division, said she was not surprised by the guilty verdict but was shocked by the five-year prison sentence.

"Navalny's prosecution is meant to silence a leader and messenger," she said.

Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia program director, John Dalhuisen, said, "This was a parody of a prosecution and a parody of a trial. The case was twice closed for lack of evidence of a crime, before being reopened on the personal instruction of Russia's top investigator."

CNN's Boriana Milanova and Arkady Irshenko contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
ITN's Dan Rivers reports from the hospital where those injured by an attack in Gaza were being treated.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Flight attendants are wearing black ribbons to show solidarity with fallen colleagues in "a tribute to those who never made it home."
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 2016 GMT (0416 HKT)
Hamas: "Lift the siege." Israel: "End the rockets." The two sides' demands will be difficult to reconcile.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 0804 GMT (1604 HKT)
When the Costa Concordia and its salvage convoy finally depart Giglio, the residents will breathe a sigh of relief -- and shed a tear.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
CNN's Richard Quest speaks to Malaysia Airlines' Hugh Dunleavy about how the airline industry needs to react to MH17.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 2042 GMT (0442 HKT)
From Maastricht to Melbourne, and baroque theaters to block-long warehouses, these stores make bookish travelers look stylish.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1857 GMT (0257 HKT)
A nun, an AIDS researcher, an athlete and a family traveling on summer vacation. These were some of the victims aboard MH17.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 0021 GMT (0821 HKT)
Prince George isn't your average one year old. He started walking before he was one. Oh, and, he's going to be king -- of 16 countries.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0621 GMT (1421 HKT)
In an ambitious plan to upgrade urban India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he will build 100 "smart cities" across the country.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
After just one day of competition, a new sport has emerged at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow: snapping selfies with the Queen.
ADVERTISEMENT