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Navalny verdict raises 'questions' on Russia rule of law

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The European Union on Thursday condemned the verdict against leader Alexei Navalny, saying the embezzlement charges were unsubstantiated and that his jailing posed "serious questions" about the rule of law in Russia.

A spokesperson for the EU's top diplomat, Catherine Ashton, said she was "concerned about the guilty verdict and the prison sentences handed down today by the Kirov Court" against Navalny and co-defendant Pyotr Ofitserov.

Navalny was sentenced to five years in a penal colony after being found guilty of embezzlement, a verdict which will disqualify one of President Vladimir Putin's fiercest critics from politics. Ofitserov was sentenced to four years.

"The charges against them have not been substantiated during the trial," the EU said.

"This outcome, given the procedural shortcomings, raises serious questions as to the state of the rule of law in Russia," it added.

Ashton "hopes that their sentences will be reconsidered in the appeal process."

In a separate condemnation, former Belgian premier Guy Verhofstadt who heads the centrist ALDE group in the European Parliament, said he was "outraged".

"This political verdict leaves no doubt that swindlers and thieves have the upper hand in Moscow," he said in a statement.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130718/navalny-verdict-raises-questions-russia-rule-law