Europe

Navalny’s appeal against nine-year prison term postponed for a week

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s appeal over a nine-year prison sentence has been postponed for a week.

The hearing began on Tuesday (17 May) but it was paused and put back at his own request.

The 45-year-old is currently serving a two-and-a-half-year prison term for violating parole on old fraud charges. 

Allies of Navalny — who is a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin — say the imprisonment is politically motivated.

He had his jail time extended in March to nine years, after he was found guilty of embezzlement and contempt of court. 

If he loses his appeal, he will be transferred to a stricter penal colony. 

Family visit

About an hour into the hearing on Tuesday, the Moscow City Court announced the trial had been extended for a week, following a request from Navalny, who was appearing by videoconference from a penal colony a hundred kilometres east of Moscow.

Responding to questions from the judge, Navalny, imprisoned since January 2021, said he wanted to read the audio recording of his judgment to compare it with his written version.

He also indicated that his family had obtained visitation rights for Friday and that he did not want to miss this visit.

“I will be sent to a colony with a strict regime and this press meeting,” he observed. “On the 24th (May), you can perfectly condemn me and I will go on a severe regime.”

As part of the new charges, investigators accused Navalny of stealing for personal use several million dollars worth of donations that were given to his political organisations.

Navalny crackdown

Navalny rose to prominence as an anti-corruption blogger and, before his imprisonment, mobilised anti-government protests across Russia.

In 2018, he campaigned as a presidential candidate but was eventually barred from running in the election that saw Putin secure a fourth term in power.

In 2020, Navalny narrowly survived a poisoning attack with Novichok, a Soviet-designed military-grade nerve agent. 

Despite accusations from Navalny, the Kremlin denied any involvement.

He was arrested on his return from rehabilitation in Germany last year, sparking widespread condemnation abroad, as well as sanctions from Western capitals.

After his arrest, Navalny’s political organisations across the country were declared “extremist” and shut down, while key aides have fled Russia. Navalny’s key allies have since fled the country, with several wanted by Russian authorities on criminal charges.

Russia has recently ramped up pressure on independent media and non-governmental organisations, declaring many “foreign agents”, while others have stopped operating for fear of prosecution.

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