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Rights Council to scrutinize verdict for Opposition activist Navalny

July 23, 2013, 17:02 UTC+3

Rights Council member Alexander Verkhovsky said the evaluation is needed because "it's a high profile case"

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MOSCOW, July 23 (Itar-Tass) - The council for developing civil society and human rights /SPCh/ under the Russian President will conduct a public expert evaluation of the verdict for Opposition activist Alexei Navalny and former timber company director Pyotr Ofitserov after it becomes effective, the SPCh reported on its website.

The decision was made by a majority of votes. SPCh member Alexander Verkhovsky said this expert evaluation by no means can judge the political element of the case, and that it has significance not only for relations between the authorities and the Opposition, but also for relations between law-enforcers and business people."

Verkhovsky said the evaluation is needed because "it's a high profile case; therefore it's the reason."

But his colleague Maxim Shevchenko said the measure will be predictably populist, as the Council has neither authority nor opportunities to look into the essentially criminal, /not political!!!/ charges.

That the SPCh might conduct a public evaluation of Navalny's case was announced by its head Mikhail Fedorov on July 18, after the Lenin district court of Kirov sentenced the Opposition activist to five years in jail in the Kirovles case.

"We have a practice for resounding cases - to have experts look into them," he said recalling in this connection the public and legal expert evaluation of the second Yukos case. "As for Alexei Navalny and /second defendant in the Kirovles case Pyotr/ Ofitserov, I've already talked with several Council members and they believe the Council should arrange an expert evaluation of this case given the public stir it caused," Fedotov said.

On July 18, the Lenin district court of Kirov has sentenced Navalny to a five year penal colony term, finding him guilty of Kirovles property misuse. He is also fined 500,000 roubles. Former director of the Vyatka Timber Company Pyotr Ofitserov is sentenced to four years in prison within the same case, and fined 500,000 roubles.

Navalny and Ofitserov were taken in custody in the courtroom.

Earlier, the Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told Itar-Tass that Navalny, during him being an advisor to the Kirov region governor, "arranged the theft of Kirovles company property by entering in collusion with Vyatka Timber Company director Pyotr Ofitserov and Kirovles Director General Vyacheslav Opalev."

The Investigative Committee believes that more than 10,000 cubic meters of timber were stolen from May through September 2009, causing 16-million-rouble losses to the regional budget.

On December 24, 2012, Kirov's Lenin district court gave Opalev a four-year suspended sentence with three-year probation. Opalev had pleaded guilty and signed a plea bargain agreement. Navalny and Ofitserov denied allegations. The former insisted that ex-Kirovles director Vyacheslav Opalev had slandered him.

The Kirovles case was opened in May 2011. Meanwhile, on December 20, 2012, the Investigative Committee charged Navalny and his brother Oleg with fraud and money-laundering in the so-called "Mail Case," where Navalny's firm Main Subscription Agency was accused of a kickback scheme through mail delivery at overstated prices.

According to the investigator, Yves Rocher Vostok was tricked into signing a contract with a firm to ship goods from Yaroslavl to Moscow. In reality, shipments were performed by another company. The market price of transportation did not exceed 31 million roubles, but more than 55 million roubles were transferred to the account of the Main Subscription Agency for alleged delivery services.

In April 2013, the case was pooled with a new case opened after a report by the Director General of the multi-profile processing company. The company had to use intermediary's services which led to 3.8 million roubles losses, the Investigative Committee said.

Navalny is also a suspect in two other criminal cases: in December 2011, the Investigative Committee initiated criminal proceedings over 100-million-rouble theft. The funds were transferred by the Union of Right Wing Forces to Navalny's Allect company for rendering advertising services in 2007. Records for this criminal case were obtained during the probe into the Kirovles fraud.

The Investigative Committee also checked Navalny for involvement in the theft of a 25.5% stake in the Urzhum distillery. Navalny and accomplices tried to secure a place on the board of directors of this company.

Meanwhile, Kirov region prosecutor contested the court's ruling of July 18 to put Navalny in custody, insisting that he may remain on recognizance before the verdict comes into force. On July 19, the Kirov region court allowed the prosecutor's appeal and set Navalny and Ofitserov free on a pledge not to leave town.

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