Moscow court convicts Kremlin critic Navalny in defamation case

WION Web Team
Moscow, Russia Published: Feb 20, 2021, 10:15 PM(IST)

Alexei Navalny Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Navalny was ordered on February 2 to serve the time in a penal colony for breaching his parole terms while he was in Germany recovering from a nerve agent poisoning he blames on the Kremlin.

A Moscow court has convicted Alexei Navalny for defaming a World War II veteran who was among a group of Russians he called "traitors" for appearing in a pro-Kremlin video.

Judge Vera Akimova ordered him to pay a fine of 850,000 rubles ($11,500/9,500 euros).

The said promotional video backed constitutional reforms last year. The reforms, approved in a referendum, will let Russian President Vladimir Putin run for two more terms in the Kremlin after 2024 if he wants to.

Before the judge began reading the verdict, Navalny made jokes and spoke to reporters from inside his glass box. "Why are you so sad?" he said, adding he was trying to make ice cream in jail and had already made pickled cucumbers.

Navalny was ordered on February 2 to serve the time in a penal colony for breaching his parole terms while he was in Germany recovering from a nerve agent poisoning he blames on the Kremlin.

The Kremlin critic, earlier on Saturday, lost an appeal against his jailing over a separate case.

Also read | Moscow appeal court upholds Alexei Navalny's prison sentence

In the hearing, Judge Dmitry Balashov dismissed Navalny's appeal of a decision to imprison him for violating the terms of a suspended sentence on embezzlement charges he says were politically motivated.

He described the legal process to jail him as "absurd" and called on Russians to take action to make the country a better place.

"Russia should be not only free, but also happy," Navalny said.

Prosecutors said Navalny had acted as if he was above the law and had "an exclusive right to do as he pleases".

The judge did decide to count six weeks Navalny was under house arrest as part of the time served, so he will now be imprisoned for just over two-and-a-half years.

Navalny, 44, was ordered on February 2 to serve two years and eight months in a penal colony for breaching his parole terms while he was in Germany recovering from the nerve agent.

Russia has come under increasing Western pressure to release Navalny since he was detained on arrival at a Moscow airport in January.

He had spent months recovering in Germany from the attack with Novichok that saw him fall ill on a Siberian flight in August. Russia has repeatedly denied involvement.

His arrest last month sparked large demonstrations across the country while the European Union threatened to impose new sanctions on Moscow.

More than 10,000 people were detained at the protests, with many of Navalny's allies now under house arrest, and his team has said there will be a break in demonstrations until later this year.

Europe's rights court ruled this week that Russia must immediately release Navalny, a motion swiftly brushed aside by the justice ministry.

EU foreign ministers, who are considering fresh sanctions over Navalny's arrest, are due to meet with two top Navalny aides in Brussels on Sunday.

(with inputs from agencies)

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