In Surprise, Putin Critic Released —for Now

Protests erupted after Alexei Navalny jailed
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 19, 2013 7:29 AM CDT
In Surprise, Putin Critic Released —for Now
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, left, tries pancakes brought by his supporters as he was released in Kirov, Russia, Friday, July 19, 2013.   (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

After a leading critic of Vladimir Putin was handed a 5-year sentence for embezzlement yesterday, protests erupted across Russia, prompting a reported 200 arrests. Thousands of people gathered on the main street to the Kremlin, yelling "freedom!" amid honking cars, the Guardian reports. Today demonstrators got their wish, at least temporarily: Alexei Navalny and his ex-business partner, Petr Ofitserov, were set free while the appeal process is carried out, the Los Angeles Times reports. Late yesterday, Russian officials argued that the men couldn't legally be held while their appeal is under way, the Wall Street Journal notes, and the judge agreed with their complaint. Navalny called the decision "quite unexpected."

After a conviction in Russia, defendants have 10 days to file an appeal; then courts have 30 days to consider whether to hear it, the Journal notes. Navalny thanked his backers "for making them release me," adding on Twitter: "Even if it is temporary, let’s use this time to shake up the swindlers." Meanwhile, the Obama administration has weighed in on the conviction, calling it "politically motivated" and saying it followed a "disturbing trend of government actions aimed at suppressing dissent and civil society in Russia." (Read more Alexei Navalny stories.)

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