KIROV, July 19 (Itar-Tass) - Court of the Kirov region has mitigated the measure of restraint for the leading Russian off-parliament oppositionist, Alexei Navalny, and has authorized his release from custody on written recognizance not to leave before a sentence issued to him by the court of a lower jurisdiction takes legal effect.
By altering the measure of restraint to Navalny and his business associate, Pyotr Ofitserov, the regional court entertained an appeal by the Prosecutor’s Office.
Thursday, Kirov city’s Leninsky district court sentenced Navalny and Ofitserov to five years and four years in jail respectively for what guilty verdict described as property embezzlements in a local timber company. Both men were placed under arrest right in the courtroom.
The regional Prosecutor’s Office appealed the ruling later in the day, saying there were no grounds for placing them under arrest.
The presiding judge said Friday that the measure of restraint can be changed in case of apprehensions that a suspect may flee from the judiciary or continue engaging in criminal activities or put up obstacles to the investigation.
“There were no such grounds,” the judge said. “Navalny and Ofitserov have permanent residential licenses in Moscow and they didn’t obstruct the course of investigation,” he said
Besides, the Leninsky district court did not take account of the fact that Moscow City’s electoral commission had endorsed Navalny’s candidacy for the post of Moscow mayor in an election that will be held in early September.
“All the candidates /for elected positions - Itar-Tass/ have equal rights in conducting their electoral campaigns and they choose the form of campaigning independently,” the judge said.
“On the basis of the aforesaid, the judicial panel decided to endorse the appeal of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Kirov region and to revoke the sentence of the Leninsky district court in what concerns the placement of the two men under arrest,” he said.
This means that Navalny can freely move around Moscow City and Kirov and to make trips between the two destinations. As for trips to other places, he can make them only upon permission from the court.
Navalny was then set free in the courtroom.
Navalny and Ofitserov’s relatives and friends who were present at the court session applauded to the two men. The first thing Alexei did upon getting free was to embrace his wife.
“What happened here now is a thing without a precedent for the Russian judiciary,” he said.