A Russian court gave Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny a suspended sentence on Tuesday for embezzling money but jailed his brother for three and a half years in a case seen as part of a campaign to stifle dissent.
Navalny led mass protests against President Vladimir Putin three years ago, when tens of thousands took to the streets in Moscow and St Petersburg to protest against corruption in Putin\’s government and inner circle.
The Navalny brothers were accused of stealing 30 million rubles, around $500,000 at the current exchange rate, from two firms including an affiliate of the French cosmetics company Yves Rocher between 2008 and 2012.
Tuesday\’s ruling will come as a relief for Navalny\’s supporters after prosecutors asked that he be imprisoned for 10 years.
The Kremlin denies allegations that it uses the courts to persecute opponents.
Officials have taken few steps to investigate Navalny\’s corruption allegations. He claimed there was mass embezzlement, including in state bank VTB and pipeline monopoly Transneft, run by close allies of Putin.
"Aren\’t you ashamed of what you are doing?" Navalny told the court and judge Yelena Korobchenko. "Why are you putting him (my brother Oleg) in prison? To punish me even harder?"
Currently under house arrest, Alexei Navalny is serving another suspended five-year jail term for a separate conviction last year, which critics also called a sham.
"The authorities are torturing and destroying relatives of their political opponents. This regime doesn\’t deserve to exit, it must be destroyed," Navalny told reporters outside the court as he was escorted in a car for prisoners.
His supporters have promised to hold a protest on the Manezh Square in front of the Kremlin on Tuesday evening.