Russian court sentences Navalny to 19-years amid extremist charges

Russian court sentences Navalny to 19-years amid extremist charges

On Friday, a Russian court convicted opposition leader Alexei Navalny to 19 additional years behind bars on extremism charges, according to Azerbaijan in Focus, reporting Daily Sabah. He is already serving a nine-year sentence on a number of politically driven crimes. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock condemned the court’s ruling.

The new charges against the politician related to the activities of Navalny’s anti-corruption foundation and statements by his top associates. It was his fifth criminal conviction, all of which his supporters see as a deliberate Kremlin strategy to silence its most ardent opponent.

The prosecution had demanded a 20-year prison sentence, and the politician himself said beforehand that he expected to receive a lengthy term.

Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most vehement opponent, is already serving a nine-year term for fraud and contempt of court. He was caught in January 2021 while coming to Moscow from Germany after recovering from nerve agent poisoning, which he blamed on the Kremlin, and sentenced to two and a half years in prison for a parole breach. The extremist trial was conducted behind closed doors in his penitentiary cell east of Moscow.

Navalny’s allies said the extremism charges retroactively criminalized all of the anti-corruption foundation’s activities since its creation in 2011. In 2021, Russian authorities outlawed the foundation and the vast network of Navalny’s offices in Russian regions as extremist organizations, exposing anyone involved to possible prosecution.

One of Navalny’s associates, Daniel Kholodny, stood trial alongside him after being relocated from a different prison. The prosecution requested a 10-year prison sentence for Kholodny to 10 years in prison.

Navalny rejected all the charges against him as politically motivated and accused the Kremlin of seeking to keep him behind bars for life.

On the eve of the verdict hearing, Navalny released a statement on social media, presumably through his team, in which he said he expected his latest sentence to be “huge … a Stalinist term,” referring to the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

In the statement, Navalny called on Russians to “personally” resist and encouraged them to support political prisoners, distribute flyers or go to rallies. He told Russians that they could choose a safe way to resist, but he added that “there is shame in doing nothing. It’s shameful to let yourself be intimidated.”

The politician is currently serving his sentence in a maximum-security prison – Penal Colony No. 6 in the town of Melekhovo, about 230 kilometers (more than 140 miles) east of Moscow.

He has spent months in a tiny one-person cell, also called a “punishment cell,” for purported disciplinary violations, such as an alleged failure to properly button his prison clothes, appropriately introduce himself to a guard, or wash his face at a specified time.

Navalny’s supporters have invited fans to come to Melekhovo on Friday to show their support. On which 40 supporters from several Russian cities gathered outside the Melekhovo settlement. Yelena, one of the supporters, told “The Associated Press” (AP) via the messaging app Telegram: “Supporters were not permitted into the colony but chose to remain outside until the judgment was announced. People believe it is important to be nearby, at least in this way, for moral support. We’ll be here waiting.”

The prosecution asked the court to order the politician to serve any new prison term in a “special regime” penal colony. This term refers to the Russian prisons with the highest level of security and the harshest inmate restrictions.

Russian law stipulates that only men given life sentences or “especially dangerous recidivists” are sent to those prisons.

The country has many fewer “special regime” colonies compared to other types of adult prisons, according to state penitentiary service data: 35 colonies for “dangerous recidivists” and six for men imprisoned for life. Maximum-security colonies are the most widespread type, with 251 currently in operation.