A Russian court on Tuesday handed a 3.5-year suspended sentence to top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny in his controversial fraud trial, after abruptly moving forward the reading of the verdict.
Judge Yelena Korobchenko found Navalny and his brother Oleg guilty of embezzlement. But while Navalny received a suspended sentence, his brother was handed a 3.5-year prison term and handcuffed in the courtroom in a move that Navalny angrily denounced as political 'pressure', timesofindia.com reports.
Navalny supporters slammed Tuesday's hearing as an attempt to suppress protest after it was brought forward at short notice from January 15, when a rally was planned, cnn reports.
Both brothers denied charges of stealing 30 million rubles ($540,000) from a Russian subsidiary of French cosmetics company Yves Rocher between 2008 and 2012.
Alexei Navalny is a corruption fighting lawyer who famously branded the ruling United Russia party -- founded by President Vladimir Putin -- "the party of crooks and thieves."
He has been a prominent organizer of street protests and has attacked corruption in Russian government, using his blog and social media.
Before Tuesday's ruling he was already under house arrest after he was convicted last year of misappropriating $500,000 worth of state-owned timber, in what he told CNN was a fabricated case.