Heavy day this Saturday, February 20 for the main opponent in Russia, Alexeï Navalny. He passed twice before the Moscow justice. Returning to Russia in January from convalescence in Germany after a poisoning for which he holds President Vladimir Putin responsible, Alexeï Navalny was arrested upon his arrival. He was then sentenced, on February 2, to two years and eight months in prison.
On Saturday, a Moscow judge slightly reduced this sentence by a month and a half, taking into account a period spent by the opponent under house arrest. Ultimately, the 44-year-old anti-corruption activist will have to serve a sentence of around two and a half years in prison. In this case, the justice converted a suspended prison sentence for fraud dating from 2014 into a firm sentence, for violation of judicial review.
→ ANALYSIS. In Russia, the opposition heals its wounds
Present at the hearing, with a smiling face, the opponent rejected the accusation, saying that he had never wanted to escape the Russian authorities by going to Germany, and to have warned them of his return.
Transferred to a labor camp?
“I bought a ticket and told everyone that I was coming home (…) It’s just absurd”, he told the judge. Prosecutor Elizaveta Frolova retorted, saying the opponent had “Openly and brazenly” defied the law.
“Our country is built on injustice”, launched Alexeï Navalny before the announcement of the verdict. Claiming to be a believer, he also quoted from the Bible: “Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. ” He also mentioned a passage from Harry Potter on “Importance” not to “To feel alone” because that’s what Voldemort, the enemy of the famous young wizard, would want.
A spokeswoman for the Moscow courthouse told AFP on Friday that the prison services would be free, if his imprisonment was confirmed, to transfer the opponent to a labor camp. A legacy of the Soviet Union, most prison sentences in Russia are served in prison camps sometimes located far from everything.
→ INVESTIGATION. In Putin’s camps
The work of prisoners, usually in sewing or furniture workshops, is compulsory. According to one of the opponent’s lawyers, Vadim Kobzev, his client will appeal in cassation.
Second trial in progress
The opponent was not done with justice, since he also appeared Saturday afternoon this time before another judge in a trial for “Defamation” of a World War II veteran for whom he was found guilty. The prosecution had requested a fine of 950,000 rubles in this case (approximately € 10,600) and also demanded that the opponent’s stay be converted into a prison.
These two hearings come as the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) this week asked for the activist’s release, arguing a risk to his life. This decision was immediately rejected by Moscow. Alexeï Navalny, whose incarceration in January had led to three days of repressed demonstrations, denounces procedures set up from scratch and has spent previous hearings defying the court.
According to him, the Kremlin wants to throw him in prison to silence him, after failing to kill him by poisoning him last summer, which Moscow denies. Other cases are pending against him. An investigation for fraud, punishable by 10 years in prison, targets him in particular.
The European Union and the United States have stepped up calls to release him, while his collaborators urged the West to sanction Russian officials close to Vladimir Putin. Moscow sees a “Interference” and threatened the Europeans with reprisals.