The Navalniy case is rapidly becoming another brick in the anti-Putin edifice: Russia’s “Mandela moment” says the BBC. We see the usual assumptions: opponents of Putin are innocent of all charges and Putin jails them anyway.
The author of the following analysis, Alexander Mercouris, is a British lawyer and has followed the trial in detail. One can only observe that it is much easier to say “political motivations” than to take the effort Mercouris has done to wade through a long and confusing trial process. His necessarily long discussion is at the link below. Here is a summary of his findings.
The Prosecution charged that Navalniy and an associate named Ofitserov, working as unpaid advisors to Governor Belykh of Kirov Oblast, created a company which bought lumber from KirovLes (Kirov Forest) at cheaper rates than it normally sold for and sold this lumber for a higher price through a company they set up. This was made possible because the two persuaded the Director of KirovLes, Opalev, to join their conspiracy. While this scheme did not make anyone very much money, it nonetheless counts as theft in Russian law and would in UK law as well.
The case against Navalniy and Ofitserov stood on two principal legs: the testimony of Opalev who turned states evidence in return for a four-year suspended sentence and intercepts of e-mails from Navalniy which were gathered by a Russian hacker nicknamed “Hell”. Neither of these circumstances was present at the first attempt to bring a court case.
Mercouris discusses the testimony, the conduct of the trial and the relevant Russian law in detail. He demonstrates that the trial was fair, that the judge had little option but to find Navalniy and Ofitserov guilty based on the testimony he heard and that the sentence and judgement were fully in line with practice in the UK and elsewhere.
In short, based on the evidence presented and arguments made, there was a legitimate case against Navalniy, Ofitserov and Opalev and the judge’s findings and sentences were justified.