A Russian court on Wednesday suspended a five-year prison sentence for top opposition leader Alexei Navalny but upheld his conviction for theft, preventing him from running in future elections.

Mr. Navalny was convicted on embezzlement charges and sentenced to prison on July 18, but was released the next day in what some considered a ploy to make the Moscow mayoral race, where he was registered as a candidate, look as competitive as possible.

According to Russian law, even a suspended sentence would eliminate Mr. Navalny from political office for life.

Mr. Navalny lambasted the trial, saying during the Wednesday session that the original sentence had been handed down “on instructions from Moscow” and that the “political motivation of this case is absolutely clear.”

The charges against Mr. Navalny date back a few years to when he worked as an unpaid adviser to the provincial governor in Kirov. Prosecutors said he was part of a group that in 2009 embezzled 16 million rubles’ ($500,000) worth of timber from the state-owned company Kirovles.

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