Putin Foe Navalny to Be Sent to Prison Camp As Loses Appeal
(Bloomberg) -- Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny could be transferred to a prison camp within days after losing an appeal on Saturday of his jailing, which has sparked mass protests and a spike in tensions with the West.
A Moscow court upheld a Feb. 2 decision to convert a 2014 suspended sentence into prison time, reducing the penalty by 6 weeks to about 2 1/2 years after crediting Navalny for time spent under house arrest. Prosecutors accused Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic of breaking the terms of his probation while recovering in Germany from a near-fatal nerve-agent attack that he and Western governments blamed on the Kremlin. Russian authorities deny any role in the poisoning.
Later Saturday, he was convicted in a separate case of slandering a World War II veteran who had participated in a pro-Kremlin TV ad. The court fined him 850,000 rubles ($11,500). Navalny denied guilt and called the charges politically motivated.
His arrest in mid-January as he came back to Russia provoked the biggest unrest in years and condemnation by the European Union and the U.S., which are both considering new sanctions to punish Putin for his imprisonment. Authorities cracked down on the demonstrations last month, detaining more than 11,000 people and prosecuting key Navalny allies. With the opposition compelled to call a temporary halt to street rallies, there were no major protests on Saturday.
“I don’t regret that I returned -- I did the right thing,” Navalny told the court before the ruling that upheld his jail term. In a characteristically defiant speech that cited the Bible, Harry Potter and science fiction cartoon series Rick and Morty, he said: “The main thing I want to say is don’t be afraid. Tens of millions of people want truth and sooner or later they’ll get it. Russia will be happy.”
The European Court of Human Rights ruled Feb. 16 that Russia risked breaching the European Convention on Human Rights unless it releases Navalny immediately, a decision rejected by officials in Moscow. German Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Roth denounced the upholding of Navalny’s sentence for probation violations while he recuperated from his attempted assassination as “cynical and inhuman.”
Navalny is unlikely to be eligible for early release because he has been labeled an escape risk, the state-run Tass news service reported Friday, citing a member of Russia’s Public Oversight Committee. He received the status despite having flown back to Moscow last month facing almost certain arrest. He could be sent to one of several prisons in central Russia in the coming days or weeks. His defense team said it would appeal Saturday’s ruling.
The 44-year-old, who has built a following of millions by releasing exposes on graft, is also under investigation over a fraud case related to his Anti-Corruption Foundation that could lead to a sentence of as much as 10 years. Investigators could ask a court to keep him in a Moscow jail while that probe is underway.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.