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'Political trial' of anti-graft campaigner opens in Russia

Photo courtesy of WikipediaRussia's leading anti-corruption activist is being put on trial for embezzlement -- charges he and his supporters say are phony and intended to punish him for exposing government fraud.

Alexei Navalny, left, 36, will stand trial this week 500 miles from Moscow, in the city of Kirov. He's charged with embezzling about $500,000 from a state-owned timber company when he served as a government advisor.

He faces up to ten years if convicted.

He writes one of Russia's most popular blogs.

Last year, he led mass demonstrations against the Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin.

In 2010, he published what he said was evidence of a $4 billion fraud at Transneft, the state-owned giant that transports more than 90% of the oil produced in Russia.

Time magazine named him one of the world's most influential people in 2012.

A report this weekend in the Guardian said opposition groups 'have accused the government of holding the trial far from Moscow in order to cover up the fact that it is a political trial.'

Navalny's supporters are braced for the worst.

The Guardian report said: 'There are dreams when you know ahead of time how they will end -- but there's nothing you can do to change the nightmarish logic of their plot or wake up from the dreamy horror,' wrote Yury Saprykin, a journalist and opposition activist, describing the case against Navalny. 'And I … can't think up a way for us all to get out of this nightmare.'

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