BERLIN – Germany has stepped up criticism of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's conviction for fraud, a verdict that bars him from running for president next year.
Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Friday that the allegations against Navalny were difficult to comprehend and indicated the case might be politically motivated.
Navalny was handed a suspended five-year sentence Wednesday in a retrial of a 2013 fraud case. A judge in Kirov, some 800 kilometers (500 miles) east of Moscow, found Navalny guilty of embezzling the equivalent of $270,000 from a timber company.
Seibert said the verdict illustrated how Russia's judiciary was making it "increasingly difficult for the opposition to be politically active."
He said that Navalny's conviction would mean that one of the few opposition candidates is excluded from Russia's election.