Moscow appeals court upholds Navalny prison sentence

Ruben Hill
February 20, 2021

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny returned to court on Saturday to hear his lawyers appeal against what they say was a politically-motivated decision to jail him for almost three years.

Navalny, 44, an anti-corruption crusader and President Vladimir Putin's most vocal critic, was arrested on January 17 upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin.

As proceedings got underway, a relaxed-looking Navalny said he had heard about a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights asking Russian Federation to free him, a request that Moscow swiftly dismissed as unlawful.

The Kremlin's most prominent opponent Alexei Navalny faced two court decisions on Saturday that could seal a judge's ruling to jail him for several years, after he returned to Russian Federation following a poisoning attack.

Judge Dmitry Balashov rejected Navalny's appeal of the February 2 ruling, which had turned a 2014 suspended sentence on embezzlement charges into real jail time.

Navalny has asked the Moscow City Court to overturn the sentence and set him free.

Supporters of the outspoken opposition figure say the cases against the 44-year-old are a pretext to silence his corruption exposes and quash his political ambitions.

Navalny is due to appear in court again later on Saturday for what is expected to be the culmination of a separate slander trial against him.

Europe's rights court ruled this week that Russian Federation must immediately release Navalny, in a motion swiftly brushed aside by the justice ministry.

Russian authorities have rejected the accusation.

'This measure shall apply with immediate effect, ' the Strasbourg-based court said in a statement.

The Russian government has rebuffed the Strasbourg-based court's demand, describing the ruling as unlawful and "inadmissible" meddling in Russia's affairs.

It emphasised that 'the ECHR can't substitute a national court or cancel its verdict'. Russian authorities might now use that provision to reject the ECHR's ruling. "The rest of the order remains unchanged", the court ruling read. Authorities responded with a sweeping crackdown, detaining about 11,000 people, many of whom were fined or given jail terms ranging from seven to 15 days.

Navalny survived being poisoned with Novichok in August past year in what he has called a state-sanctioned assassination.

He insisted that he was unable to report to the authorities in line with his probation requirements while he was convalescing in Germany after his poisoning, emphasizing that he returned to Russian Federation immediately after his health allowed.

He was subsequently jailed for two years and eight months, sparking mass protests in Russian Federation that were met with a brutal police response.

The Kremlin said on Friday it hoped the United States and European Union would fall back on common sense and resist calls to impose new sanctions on Moscow over its treatment of opposition politician Alexei Navalny. She has now left the country for Germany.

Navalny's arrest and jailing sparked nationwide street protests in Russian Federation, but his allies say they have now paused serious demonstrations until the spring.

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to name as early as Friday companies it believes are helping build Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany, according to sources, a move that could prompt sanctions on the almost completed project.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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