MOSCOW, July 18 (Itar-Tass) - Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev regretted the guilty verdict to opposition leader Alexei Navalny and said it is too early to consider the case closed.
“All I know about this case, how it started, then closed and reopened again, and how it was examined in court unfortunately confirms that we have no independent court,” Gorbachev said in a statement released on Thursday, July 18.
“Without going into details I want to say that this case left a very grave impression upon me. I am convinced that it is inadmissible to use of courts for fighting political opponents,” he said.
However “since Navalny’s lawyers are going to appeal the verdict, I believe that this is not the end of the story yet,” Gorbachev added.
Earlier in the day, a court in Kirov sentenced Navalny to five years in prison for embezzlement.
On Wednesday, July 17, the Moscow election commission registered Navalny as an official candidate for the post of Moscow mayor. His registration will give him immunity until the court verdict enters into force, city election commission chairman Valentin Gorbunov said.
Even if the court gives Navalny a prison term, he, as a candidate, will have certain advantages in terms of administrative and criminal prosecution. Such sanctions may be imposed only by the Moscow prosecutor.
Andrei Buzin, a non-voting member of the election commission, said Navalny’s election campaign may be subject to restrictions only if he is put in custody.
Navalny will have time to file an appeal and if court proceedings drag on until September 3, he will be able to take part on the upcoming mayoral election slated for September 8.
A candidate may be removed from the election race no later than 5 days before the election.