MOSCOW, June 13 (RIA Novosti) – A Russian court refused to issue an arrest warrant for Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Thursday, requested by prosecutors after he failed to appear in court, because he was being questioned by investigators in another city.
Prosecutors in the central Russian city of Kirov where Navalny is facing embezzlement charges had called for the arrest warrant, saying the defendant had “not provided any evidence of sufficient reason for his absence in court,” the RAPSI news agency reported.
Defense lawyers argued that he could not appear in Kirov as he had been summoned for questioning at the same time by the Investigative Committee in Moscow and was fulfilling that legal obligation. Navalny himself said the same thing via Twitter, adding that the Investigative Committee had called him in “in connection with a completely different case.”
The Kirov court’s judge, Sergei Blinov, adjourned the hearing for a little under an hour to make the determination, according to RAPSI.
Navalny, a prominent anti-corruption activist and whistle-blowing blogger, led some of Moscow’s large-scale street protests against President Vladimir Putin and the ruling United Russia party, triggered by allegations of election fraud in 2011 and 2012. He is now charged with embezzling $500,000 worth of timber from the state-run company Kirovles in 2009, and faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty. He denies the charges, which his supporters say are politically motivated.
Navalny has announced his intention to run for Moscow mayor in elections due to be held September 8. If convicted, he would be ineligible to run for public office.
The independent Levada Center pollster reported Thursday that some 3 percent of Muscovites would be willing to vote for Navalny, as compared to 45 percent for the incumbent, pro-Kremlin mayor, Sergei Sobyanin.