Russian political activist and lawyer Alexei Navalny [BBC profile] was freed from jail on Friday, less than 24 hours after he was sentenced [JURIST report] to five years for embezzling 16 million rubles (USD $500,000). Navalny and his co-defendant, Petr Ofitserovon, were freed pending appeal on the condition that they not travel outside Moscow. Widespread protests erupted [BBC report] in several Russian cities after Navalny's guilty verdict was announced, which may have contributed to his release. Navalny first became visible in 2011 as one of the leaders of street demonstrations against parliamentary elections allegedly rigged by the Kremlin. Navalny, a leading opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website, in Russian], announced that he was reconsidering running for mayor of Moscow on September 8.
Russia has cracked down on dissent recently. In June the UN released a letter from human rights experts voicing their concern [JURIST report] that two Russian non-governmental organizations have been charged by Russian prosecutors following their involvement with the UN Committee against Torture [official website]. In May a Russian court rejected an appeal [JURIST report] by members of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot [RASPI backgrounder; JURIST news archive] against their sentence for a protest against Putin. Earlier in May the EU expressed concern [press release, PDF; JURIST foreign agents law [JURIST report] since its adoption last November. The law requires non-governmental organizations and non-commercial organizations to register as foreign agents if they engage in any political activity or receive foreign funding.