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Russia: Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny sentenced to 19 years more on extremism charges

The 47-year-old Navalny critic is already serving a nine-year term for fraud, contempt of court and was sentenced in 2021 to two-and-a-half years in prison for a parole violation.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee Moscow Published on: August 04, 2023 20:10 IST
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny
Image Source : AP Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny

Imprisoned opposition leader and long-time Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was convicted and sentenced to 19 years by a Russian court on Friday. Prior to the conviction, Navalny said that he was already anticipating a lengthy sentence against him.

Navalny has been convicted of founding and funding an extremist organisation and its activities, although he denies this. The Kremlin critic is already serving a nine-year term for fraud and contempt of court. He was also sentenced to two-and-a-half year imprisonment for a parole violation. 

The 47-year-old leader was widely considered as Russian President Vladimir Putin's fiercest for and has organised major anti-Kremlin protests and exposed official corruption. He was arrested in January 2021 after he suffered a near-fatal nerve agent poisoning, which he blamed on the Kremlin. He underwent treatment in Germany.

Most of the cases against him are politically motivated, Navalny says. His anti-corruption foundation was outlawed and his offices in Russia were called 'extremist organisations' by authorities. The recent charges have criminalised all the foundation's activities since its establishment in 2011, say Navalny's allies.

The extremism trial took place behind closed doors in the penal colony east of Moscow where he is imprisoned, with the prosecution demanding a 20-year prison sentence in a more restrictive 'special regime colony'. This was Navalny's fifth conviction.

The politician is currently serving his sentence in a maximum-security prison — Penal Colony No. 6 in Melekhovo. One of Navalny’s associates, Daniel Kholodny, stood trial alongside him after being relocated from another prison. The prosecution asked to sentence Kholodny to 10 years in prison.

Navalny further said that he was informed by investigators of possibly facing another trial on terrorism charges. On the eve of the verdict, Navalny released a statement on social media, in which he said he expected his latest sentence to be “huge … a Stalinist term,” referring to the Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin.

At least 40 of his supporters from different Russian cities gathered outside the colony in Melekhovo on Friday. The 'special regime colony' asked by the prosecution is reserved for the most dangerous Russian inmates.

He has gone through months in a minuscule one-individual cell, likewise called a "discipline cell," for implied disciplinary infringement, for example, a supposed inability to appropriately fasten his jail garments, appropriately acquaint himself with a watchman, or to clean up at a predetermined time.

Navalny's partners have blamed jail experts for neglecting to give him appropriate clinical help and voiced worry about his well-being. 

(with AP inputs)

ALSO READ | Russia seeks 20 years of ‘maximum-security prison’ for Alexei Navalny

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