The Russian human rights center Memorial has recognized the brothers Alexei and Oleg Navalny as political prisoners.
"There is an obvious political motive visible in their criminal prosecution: to crack down on Alexei's public activities and eliminate the threats that his activities pose to the incumbent authorities," Memorial said on its website on Thursday.
The center recognized Alexei Navalny as a political prisoner as he had been placed under house arrest and Oleg Navalny for methods used in his criminal prosecution and the circumstances of his trial and the court sentence, it said.
"The court has sentenced Oleg to a prison, and the convict was taken into custody. These circumstances give reasons to view him as a political prisoner and his deprivation of freedom as illegal," Memorial said.
"In our view, there was no corpus delicti in the Navalny brothers' activities. This was a routine business activity, and disputes related to it could have and should have been resolved in a civilian proceeding," it said.
A criminal case against Alexei and Oleg Navalny was opened in December 2012. They were indicted on October 29, 2013 for embezzling over 26 million rubles from the French cosmetic manufacturer and distributor Yves Rocher Vostok and over 4 million rubles from Multiprofile Processing Company and also the legalization of over 21 million rubles.
A Moscow court had given Alexei Navalny a suspended prison term of 3.5 years, while his brother Oleg Navalny had received jail time of 3.5 years on December 30. Before the sentences take effect, Alexei is supposed to remain under house arrest and his brother at a detention facility.
Navalny had earlier been given a suspended sentence in a criminal case dealing with the Kirovles timber company.
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