Russian court gives Navalny suspended term on appeal

KIROV, Russia - Russian protest leader Alexei Navalny on Wednesday avoided being sent to jail after a Russian court changed a five-year penal colony sentence against him in an embezzlement case into a suspended term.

The three judges hearing the appeal in the Kirov region of northern Russia left Navalny's conviction in place but said they had decided to "change the verdict for Alexei Navalny into a suspended term".

Navalny's co-accused in the controversial embezzlement case, his former business associate Pyotr Ofitserov, also had his original four year penal colony term transformed into a suspended sentence.

The verdicts were delivered after an extraordinarily rapid hearing by the standards of the Russian legal system that lasted barely two-and-a-half hours.

Navalny said he would nonetheless appeal the conviction, which risks disqualifying him from politics and ruining his growing political ambitions. "Naturally, we will appeal," he told reporters in the courtroom.