Sunday, 28 February, 2021

Moscow court fines opposition leader Navalny for defamation

Moscow court rejects Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's appeal against his prison sentence Putin critic Alexei Navalny LOSES appeal against nearly three year jail term
Cary Erickson | 20 February, 2021, 19:08

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has lost an appeal against what he says was a politically motivated decision to jail him for almost three years, but his prison term has been slightly shortened.

The ruling came hours after another judge rejected the top Kremlin critic's appeal over his prison sentence for violating the terms of his probation.

Navalny was given the almost three-year sentence on February 2 for breaching parole terms of an embezzlement conviction while in Germany recovering from a poisoning attack that very almost killed him.

Russian investigators said Navalny's tweet "denigrated the honor and dignity" of 95-year-old war veteran Ignat Artemenko, who was among the athletes and celebrities that appeared in the video.

He returned to Russian Federation last month from Germany, where he had been recovering from a near-fatal poisoning in Siberia in August with what many Western nations said was a nerve agent.

The judge chose to count six weeks Navalny was under house arrest as part of the time served, meaning he will now be imprisoned for just over two-and-a-half years in a penal colony.

Late last month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on the Russian government to release Navalny, and in a ruling on Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights followed suit, citing "the nature and extent of risk to the applicant's life".

"Political life will be rich and multifaceted", Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

In the slander case, Mr Navalny has been accused of defaming a World War II veteran who took part in a promotional video backing constitutional reforms previous year that let Mr Putin run for two more terms in the Kremlin after 2024 if he wants.

Prosecutors in a separate trial have called for the Kremlin critic to be fined the equivalent of $13,000 for calling a World War II veteran a "traitor" on Twitter a year ago, with a verdict also expected Saturday.

"I don't want to show off a lot, but the whole world knew where I was", Mr Navalny told the judge.

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The sentence stems from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that Navalny has rejected as fabricated and the European Court of Human Rights has ruled to be unlawful.

He said he had no regrets about returning to Russian Federation, that his belief in God helped sustain him, and that "strength was in truth".

A spokesman for Navalny called the appeals court decision to uphold the prison sentence a sign that "there is no justice in Russian Federation". "They want the righteousness and sooner or later they will have it".

The court noted that Navalny has contested Russian authorities' argument that they had taken sufficient measures to safeguard his life and well-being in custody following the nerve agent attack.

Mr Navalny reportedly responded sarcastically to the ruling.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands in a Moscow courtroom on Saturday.

Another Moscow court this week rejected Navalny's appeal against a fine of 3.3 million rubles (€36,825, $44,649) that he was ordered to pay a catering company in another defamation lawsuit.

In the past, Moscow has abided by the ECHR's rulings awarding compensations to Russian citizens who have contested verdicts in Russian courts, but it never faced a demand by the European court to set a convict free.

Mr Navalny accuses Mr Putin of ordering his attempted murder. Russian authorities might now use that provision to reject the ECHR's ruling.

Later on Saturday, Navalny will also face proceedings in a separate case on charges of defaming a Second World War veteran.

"You'll burn in Hell for all of this", he said.