Alexei Navalny’s appeal rejected by Moscow court

Pablo Tucker
February 20, 2021

A Moscow appeal court has upheld a prison sentence imposed on chief Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny after he returned to Russian Federation from Germany last month.

The ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that was posted on Navalny's website on Wednesday demands that Russian Federation set him free immediately and warns that failing to do so would mark a breach of the European human rights convention.

The Kremlin said it had nothing to do with Navalny's court cases and that the decision to reject his appeal would not alter Russia's political landscape in the run-up to parliamentary elections later this year.

The judge rejected the argument, but did abbreviate his sentence by six weeks, ruling that the month-and-a-half that Navalny spent under house arrest in 2015 can count toward his prison term.

On February 16, the European court of human rights (ECHR) ruled that Russian Federation risked breaching the European Convention on Human Rights if it did not release Navalny immediately, according to Bloomberg. 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.

The verdict was another legal blow for Navalny, after an appeals court earlier in the day upheld a prison sentence for the opposition leader due to a parole violation.

Putin, who makes a point of never uttering Navalny's name, has said Russian state security agents would have "finished the job" if they had wanted to kill Navalny who he suggested was not important enough to eliminate.

A spokesman for Navalny called the appeals court decision to uphold the prison sentence a sign that "there is no justice in Russian Federation".

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.

Protests continued for several weeks after Navlany's jailing, but his supporters now say demonstrations have been paused until the Spring.

Navalny has also found support from across much of the global community.

Navalny is also unlikely to get an early release as he has been labeled an escape threat, the state-run Tass news service reported Friday, citing a member of Russia's Public Oversight Committee.

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Moscow, St. Petersburg and across Russian Federation to demand the release of prominent Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny this past weekend.

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

The Russian Justice Ministry warned in a statement carried by the Tass news agency that the ECHR's demand referencing the rule would represent a "crude interference into the judicial system" of Russia and 'cross the red line'. His lawyer said on Saturday he would now spend a little over 2-1/2 years behind bars and that his legal team would try to challenge the decision to reject his appeal.

Prosecutors have asked the judge to order Navalny to pay a fine of 950,000 rubles (about $13,000). 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.

Navalny said at the hearing that his accusers "will burn in hell".

Other reports by iNewsToday