The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on October 17 that Russia unfairly convicted political opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his brother in an embezzlement case and ordered Russia to pay them nearly $100,000 in damages and court fees.
In the decision, the ECHR found that “the decisions reached by the domestic courts in the applicants’ criminal case were arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable,” and that Russia had passed down unlawfully harsh punishments with their convictions.
The Navalnys were convicted by a Russian court in 2014 for embezzling over $500,000 from French cosmetics giant Yves Rocher. The court said that they had committed fraud by coaxing company managers into using their transport company at inflated prices, while hiring subcontractors to actually do the work. The scheme took place over four years.
Alexei received a suspended 3.5 year sentence, while Oleg was sent to prison for 3.5 years. Alexei decried the convictions as politically-motivated, claiming that Russia was holding his brother hostage for his political activities. The France-based ECHR unanimously agreed that they had been convicted for acts that were lawful at the time and that they had been denied a fair trial. However, in a split decision the court refused to say whether the criminal proceedings were politically-motivated.
The ruling comes only a few days after State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin said that Russia will not enforce the rulings of the ECHR if Moscow continues to be barred from participating in the selection of its judges. Russia is currently bound to the decisions of the ECHR by virtue of its ratification of the European Declaration of Human Rights and membership in the Council of Europe, but its voting rights for judges were stripped following its illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.