Sunday, April 21, 2024

Navalny gets 19 more years in Russian prison

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The jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been handed a further 19 year jail term, at a trial in a remote penal colony.

Navalny was found guilty of founding and funding an extremist organisation and activities. He denies the charges.

He is already serving a nine-year term for parole violations, fraud and contempt of court. The charges are widely viewed as politically motivated.

Since his jailing in 2021, Navalny has been held at a remote penal colony.

A hall in the prison, Penal Colony No 6 in Melekhovo, which is 240km (150 miles) east of Moscow, was turned into a makeshift courtroom for the Kremlin’s most vocal critic. The proceedings were held behind closed doors.

Navalny will serve his time in a maximum-security colony, his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said.

Russian state prosecutors had called for a 20-year prison sentence for Navalny, and for him to serve it in an even more restrictive “special regime colony”. Such prisons are normally reserved for Russia’s most dangerous criminals.

In a message posted on social media ahead of the verdict, Navalny expressed his belief that he would be handed a “Stalinist” style prison term designed to frighten other potential dissenters.

On paper, it is a Moscow court that is hearing the case. But the decision to hold a remote trial in a prison suggests that the Russian authorities wanted to avoid the publicity that would inevitably come with transporting Navalny to the Russian capital.

When Navalny delivered his final statement two weeks ago, there was no video or audio recording of his words. But the text of his speech criticising the Russian authorities and the war in Ukraine was made public. His supporters, including Russian actors and musicians in exile, read it out and posted online.

Navalny could yet face further charges. He says that investigators have told him to expect another trial on terrorism charges.

For more than a decade, Navalny sought to expose corruption at the heart of Russian power. His video investigations have received tens of millions of views online.

A charismatic campaigner, he seemed to be the only Russian opposition leader capable of mobilising people in large numbers across Russia to take part in anti-government protests.

But in 2020, he was poisoned in Siberia by what Western laboratories later confirmed to be a nerve agent.

A later report by the investigative outlet Bellingcat and Russian news site The Insider implicated several agents of Russia’s internal security service, the FSB, in the attack.

After recovering from the attack, avalny returned to Russia in 2021 despite warnings that he could face arrest. He was immediately arrested upon arrival at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport. (BBC)

 

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