Moscow: A Russian judge sentenced protest leader Alexei Navalny to five years in prison on Thursday after convicting him of large-scale theft in a trial Navalny said was politically motivated.
Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin`s biggest critics, hugged his wife and shook his father`s hand before he was led away from court handcuffed to a law enforcement officer.
The sentence was immediately denounced by rights activists and Kremlin critics, many of whom say the trial was part of a clampdown on dissent in Putin`s third presidential term. Prosecutors had asked for six years.
Navalny, who emerged from rallies against Putin last year as the opposition`s most dynamic leader, was convicted of organising the theft of timber worth more than 16 million roubles while advising the Kirov governor in 2009.
Judge Sergei Blinov said there was no extenuating circumstances that would warrant keeping Navalny out of prison with a suspended sentence, and that he could not be "corrected" without being isolated from society.
Russian shares fell after the sentence was issued.