Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been found guilty of fraud and contempt of court and sentenced to nine years in a maximum security prison. Photo / Pavel Golovkin, AP File)
A Russian court on Tuesday found opposition leader Alexei Navalny guilty of fraud and contempt of court, sentencing him to another nine years in prison, which was seen as an attempt to keep President Vladimir Putin’s biggest enemy behind bars for as long as possible.
The new verdict comes after a year of repression by Putin against Navalny’s supporters, other opposition activists and independent journalists, in whom the authorities appear to be trying to stifle any dissent.
Navalny’s close associates were prosecuted and left the country, and his group’s political infrastructure – the Anti-Corruption Foundation and a nationwide network of regional offices – was destroyed after it was called an extremist organization.
The 45-year-old Navalny, who in 2020 suffered from poisoning with a neuro-paralytic substance, which he accuses the Kremlin of, is already serving 2 and a half years in a colony east of Moscow for violating parole. The new trial took place in an impromptu courtroom of the institution.
In a post by his team on social media shortly after the verdict, the usually scathing Navalny said: “My space flight takes a little longer than expected.”
He added that neither he nor his comrades “just won’t wait”, saying that his Anti-Corruption Foundation will become an international organization that will fight [Putin] until we win. “
“We will find all their mansions in Monaco, their villas in Miami, their wealth everywhere – and if we find it, we will take everything from the criminal Russian elite,” – said the new website of the foundation.
His new sentence is charged with embezzling money he and his foundation have been collecting for years, and insulting a judge during a preliminary trial. Navalny, who will appeal the ruling, dismissed the allegations as politically motivated.
Germany condemned the verdict, calling the Foreign Ministry “part of the systematic instrumentalization of Russia’s judicial system against dissidents and the political opposition.”
It was not immediately clear whether Navalny should serve a new nine-year term in addition to two and a half years, or where he would serve it. The prosecutor’s office initially asked for 13 years in prison. The judge also fined him 1.2 million rubles (about $ 11,500).
Navalny’s Twitter account reacted to the nine-year sentence with reference to The Wire series: “Well, as the heroes of my favorite TV series, Provad, said: ‘You only do two days.’ This is the day you come in and the day you come out. ” I even had a T-shirt with such a slogan, but the prison authorities confiscated it, considering the print extremist. “
Even his lawyers, Volha Mikhailova and Vadzim Kobzeu, were detained shortly after commenting on the ruling, although Mikhailova told Madison that police had released them without charge.
Navalny’s supporters criticized the decision to move the trial, which began about a month ago, to prison, not Moscow. They stated that this effectively limited the access of the media and supporters to the trial.
He appeared at the hearing in prison attire and delivered several lengthy speeches, calling the allegations false.
Navalny fell ill during a domestic flight in 2020 and was diagnosed with the neuro-poisoning substance “Newbie”, although Russian officials categorically denied his accusations that they had any role. He was transported to Germany for treatment, where he recovered for five months.
He was arrested on his return to Russia in January 2021, sparking the largest protests in the country in recent years. The following month, a Moscow court sentenced him to prison for violating the terms of his parole in 2014 for embezzlement that the European Court of Human Rights found “arbitrary and manifestly unfounded.”
Authorities then deployed extensively to disperse his organization, allies, and supporters. Last month, Russian officials entered him and a number of his colleagues in a state register that recognized them as extremists and terrorists.
Several criminal cases have been opened against Navalny separately, forcing his associates to suggest that the Kremlin intends to keep him in jail indefinitely.
Navalny’s closest ally and longtime strategist Leonid Volkov wrote a tweet from abroad on Tuesday that the plan would fail. “Putin plans and plans a lot: to make Russia one of the five largest economies in the world, to capture Kyiv in 96 hours, to kill Navalny and Novich. His plans always failed. So will these nine years. Said Wolves. – AP