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Navalny, opponent of the Kremlin, sentenced to nine years in prison

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Moscow (AP) – In another controversial trial, a Russian court has sentenced imprisoned Kremlin opponent Alexej Navalny to a total of nine years in a prison camp. Judge Margarita Kotowa also ordered particularly harsh prison conditions on Tuesday after an hour-long speech.

All previous sentences against the 45-year-old man are included in the nine years in prison, as Navalny’s lawyer Olga Michajlowa announced later. Therefore, Navalny could remain in prison until 2030. His lawyer announced an objection.

In addition, the opposition, considered the best-known opponent of President Vladimir Putin in Russia, will have to pay a fine of 1.2 million rubles (equivalent to 8,200 euros). Navalny was tried in his penal camp about 100 kilometers east of Moscow in Pokrov. Later, Mikhaylova and her fellow lawyer, Vadim Kobsev, were also briefly in police custody. The Kremlin opponent barely survived an assassination attempt with the chemical warfare agent Novichok in August 2020 and recovered in Germany. Returning to Moscow voluntarily, he was immediately arrested.

Navalny’s lawyers in brief custody

The “Novaya Gazeta” newspaper, which is critical of the Kremlin, published a video showing Mikhailova being led away by two policemen, accompanied by cameras. An official had previously requested that she be removed from the facility for “disrupting the work of the prison.” A little later, both were released again.

In the trial, which was criticized as political staging, Judge Navalny pleaded guilty to, among other things, grand fraud. The defendant stole goods from strangers for “fraud and breach of trust.” Navalny’s team had accused the lawyer, who had just been promoted by Putin, of repeatedly calling the presidential administration during the process for instructions.

The anti-Kremlin team sees the actions of the Russian judiciary as another attempt to silence Navalny. It is a process personally controlled by Putin, opposition spokeswoman Kira Jarmysch said. “First he (Putin) tried to kill Alexei. And when that failed, he decided to keep him in prison forever.”

Concern about new detention circumstances

The father of two had to answer this time for allegedly embezzling money for his anti-corruption foundation, which is now banned in Russia, and for insulting a judge in a previous trial. According to his team, he could face up to 15 years in prison. The prosecution had asked for 13 years.

Navalny’s spokeswoman, Jarmysch, fears he could now be classified as a “repeat offender” and taken to a camp with harsher prison conditions much further from Moscow. “Then it will be practically impossible to have access and contact with him.” Every effort will be made to release you before that date. Navalny’s foundation should continue to work from abroad.

Until now, the politician has repeatedly managed to get messages to the public through his lawyers. Recently, Navalny’s calls for protests against Putin’s war in Ukraine were spread on social networks.

The federal government describes the verdict as arbitrariness

The federal government strongly criticized the new verdict against Navalny. “The new prison sentence imposed today on Alexei Navalny is an open act of arbitrariness,” said a spokesman for the Federal Foreign Office. “It ties in with the systematic exploitation of the Russian judicial system against dissidents and political opposition.”

The procedure was carried out practically without an audience. Basic principles of the rule of law were ignored and no solid evidence was presented. The federal government again called for Navalny’s immediate release.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also called for Navalny’s “immediate and unconditional release.” The circumstances of the conviction are “the clearest indication that the Russian legal system continues to be instrumentalized against Mr. Navalny,” he said in a statement.

US Government: Politically Motivated Punishment

According to the US government, Navalny’s new conviction is a “politically motivated” guilty verdict. The “outrageous” sentence of nine years in a high-security prison is the continuation of the Kremlin’s campaign against Navalny, the US State Department said. Moscow is only going after Navalny because he is a government opponent who also wants to fight. against corruption in Russia, he said. The ministry demanded that Navalny be released “immediately and unconditionally.”

Navalny’s wife: “He will also master this task”

Navalny’s wife, Julia, who had repeatedly visited him in the prison camp, including on the days of the trial, seemed calm. “We have been together for more than 20 years and year after year we learn to be good fathers and good husbands,” Julia Navalnaya wrote on Instagram. “And if we have to endure constant pressure, we will also master this task.” In addition, Navalnaja posted a photo of herself, Alexei and her two children, Darja and Sachar. “I love you, my most expensive person in this world,” the 45-year-old woman finished her contribution. “And I have been proud of you for many, many years.”

President Putin has denied any involvement in the poisoning of Navalny. The EU has imposed sanctions on Russia for the assassination. The politician returned to Russia more than a year ago after his recovery in Germany, where then-Chancellor Angela Merkel had visited him at the Charité in Berlin. He was arrested on January 17, 2021 at the Moscow airport for allegedly violating the conditions in another criminal case.

The Russian judiciary charged him with violating reporting requirements at home while recovering in Germany. A court then converted a suspended sentence from an earlier prison fraud trial into a prison camp.

The human rights organization Amnesty International criticized the new verdict as “shocking”. Navalny will be punished for challenging Putin’s “system of corruption and abuse of power.” “The world must not ignore the verdict and its importance amid the horror of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.”

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