Court rejects request to arrest Kremlin critic Navalny

MOSCOW Fri Aug 1, 2014 8:22am EDT

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny (front ) sits inside a car after leaving a justice court building in Moscow  April 22, 2014.  REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny (front ) sits inside a car after leaving a justice court building in Moscow April 22, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian court on Friday rejected a request by the prosecutor's office and the prison service to issue an arrest warrant for anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny on suspicion of violating his house arrest terms.

The court ruled to keep his "pre-trial restrictions" unchanged, a spokeswoman for Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky court said, meaning Navalny will stay under house arrest and banned from using the Internet until his next hearing on Aug. 14.

Aides for Navalny said earlier the prison service had demanded his arrest for commenting on the so-called Yves Rocher case in which he is accused of stealing more than 30 million rubles ($840,600) from two companies, one affiliated to the French cosmetics firm.

Navalny and other prominent opposition figures have ridiculed the case as politically motivated. A picture of a smiling Navalny was posted on his Twitter feed minutes after the request to issue an arrest warrant was rejected by the court.

Last year Navalny was convicted of embezzling 16 million rubles ($466,000) worth of timber in an unrelated case and sentenced to five years in prison. The sentence was later suspended after street protests in Moscow.

Navalny says the criminal charges against him are trumped-up and the campaign to silence him is run by the Kremlin, which is wary of any potential rivals to President Vladimir Putin, who has ruled Russia since 2000.

Navalny, who rose to prominence as an anti-corruption campaigner, led street protests that shook the Kremlin in 2011 and 2012, marring Putin's return for a third term ruling Russia.

Navalny is barred from seeking office for years due to the conviction on the timber case. ($1 = 35.7010 Russian rubles)

(Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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