Alexei Navalvy on trial: blogger denounces regime of 'scumbags'

The judge in embezzlement case has retired to consider the verdict and sentence

Moscow

Russia's most prominent opposition leader described the country’s government as a regime of “scumbags”, in impassioned final words to a provincial court that could jail him for up to six years.

Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption blogger who has emerged as the most charismatic leader of protests against President Vladimir Putin, is on trial for embezzlement of 16 million roubles (£320,000) from a timber company, which allegedly occurred when he worked as the adviser to the governor of Kirov region in 2009.

Mr Navalny, as well as a number of independent experts who have reviewed the charges, have described them as bizarre and fabricated, and the defendant yesterday described the trial as a “political order” from the Kremlin. Mr Navalny has angered the authorities by uncovering a number of cases of corruption within government elites and publishing details on his blog. The spokesperson for the country’s Investigative Committee admitted in an interview that the authorities had been spurred by his investigations to bring a prosecution against him.

Mr Navalny also wants to stand in September elections for Moscow mayor against the Kremlin's preferred choice, incumbent Sergei Sobyanin. He launched his campaign this week, and there has been speculation that the main goal of the court case is to prevent Mr Navalny from standing. If Judge Sergei Blinov, who during his entire career has never issued an innocent verdict, finds Mr Navalny guilty, then he will be barred from standing in elections, even if he is only given a suspended sentence.

The prospect that he will receive an actual jail term became more real yesterday, when the state prosecutor asked the judge to jail Mr Navalny for six years. He asked asked for a fine of one million roubles (£20,000).

Mr Navalny’s co-defendant, Petr Ofitserov, told the court that he could have done a deal with investigators to provide false testimony against Mr Navalny, but had decided not to. “I have five children. I could have made a deal,” said Mr Ofitserov to the judge. “But when my children grow up they will ask me what I did in this case. And they would find out.” Mr Navalny said that it was clear Mr Ofitserov had been caught up “by chance” in the “political process” and asked the judge not to jail his co-defendant. “Surely there should be some limit to the absurdity,” he said.

In an angry final speech attacking the government of Mr Putin, Mr Navalny said there was a “feudal system” in the country, and that “100 people have hijacked power thanks to state television, inertia, and public apathy.”

The judge looked circumspect through much of the proceedings and retired to consider the verdict and sentence, which will he will announce on 18 July.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent