Russian Courts Uphold Navalny Verdict

MOSCOW (dpa, Berlin/TNS) -
Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny, detained upon arrival at Sheremetyevo International Airport on Jan. 17, 2021, is escorted by a police officer outside the 2nd Department of the Russian Interior Ministry Directorate for Khimki. (Sergei Bobylev/TASS/Abaca Press/TNS)

Russian judges ruled against opposition leader Alexei Navalny in two cases on Saturday, paving the way for him being sent to a penal colony as well as issuing a stiff fine.

The court upheld Navalny’s prison sentence, rejecting an appeal by the Kremlin critic in a case that triggered international condemnation and protests across the country.

The Moscow City Court dismissed Navalny’s appeal against a lower court’s 3 1/2-year prison sentence handed down for violating probation terms related to a 2014 fraud conviction, clearing the way for him to be sent to a penal colony.

The actual term, however, is likely to be shorter, because Navalny’s lawyers expect he will be credited for time already spent in detention and house arrest.

This means he could be released after two years, six months and two weeks, which would be late July or early August 2023.

Navalny, who was in court for the verdict, took the judge’s ruling calmly and even laughed, video from the courtroom showed. His team said they will still try to fight the sentence in the courts.

The European Court of Human Rights earlier this week had ordered Russia to immediately release the 44-year-old opposition figure and anti-corruption campaigner who is President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal opponent.

Earlier this month, Navalny was sentenced to prison on charges of violating parole for a fraud conviction.

This was despite the fact that he could not report to parole officers because he had to be taken to Germany while comatose after an attack with a nerve agent, then stayed there to recuperate for several months. The attack has widely been blamed on Russian agents.

The case drew severe criticism worldwide and triggered mass protests across Russia.

In a legal marathon on Saturday, Navalny also attend another trial — held in the same courthouse as the appeal trial and with the same prosecutor — that has also been criticized as politically motivated.

The defamation trial began shortly after the first ended. Navalny was charged with insulting a World War II veteran who appeared in a montage praising a constitutional change that many say boosted Putin’s powers.

Navalny was handed a 850,000-rouble ($9,400) fine, lower than the prosecutors demanded, but still about double the average annual salary in the country.

Navalny was charged after he tweeted a clip of the video, calling the people who appeared in it “traitors.”