Russian prosecutors seek 20 more years in prison for Navalny

11 months ago 77

Putin’s most prominent opponent faces new charges, which he says are fabricated to keep him out of political life.

Published On 20 Jul 2023

Russia’s state prosecutors have requested a 20-year prison sentence for jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny on charges including “extremism”, according to state news agency TASS.

The verdict will be announced on August 4, TASS cited a lawyer as saying.

Navalny condemned Russia’s war in Ukraine during Thursday’s closed-door court hearing, according to a statement released by his aides.

“[Russia is] floundering in a pool of either mud or blood, with broken bones, with a poor and robbed population, and around it lie tens of thousands of people killed in the most stupid and senseless war of the 21st century,” he said.

Navalny is already serving an 11.5-year prison sentence over fraud and other charges, in a maximum security penal colony in Melekhovo, 250 kilometres (150 miles) east of Moscow.

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny is seen on screens via a video link from the IK-2 corrective penal colony in Pokrov during a court hearingNavalny is seen on screens via a video link from the IK-2 corrective penal colony in Pokrov [File: Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters]

President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent and vocal opponent faces a grab-bag of new charges, which he says are similarly fabricated to keep him out of political life.

Court records showed they related to six different articles of the Russian criminal code, including inciting and financing extremist activity and creating an extremist organisation.

The latest request by prosecutors against the Kremlin’s biggest rival could see 47-year-old Navalny remain behind bars for at least 20 more years.

Navalny, who exposed official corruption and organised significant anti-Kremlin protests, was arrested in January 2021 upon returning to Moscow after recuperating in Germany from nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin.

He said that prosecutors had provided him with 3,828 pages describing all the crimes he is alleged to have committed while in prison.

“Although it’s clear from the size of the tomes that I am a sophisticated and persistent criminal, it’s impossible to find out what exactly I am accused of,” Navalny said.

While imprisoned, the anti-corruption crusader has spent months in a tiny one-person cell, also called a “punishment cell”, for purported disciplinary violations, such as an alleged failure to properly button his prison robe, properly introduce himself to a guard or to wash his face at a specified time.

Navalny has complained of health problems since being jailed and experienced significant weight loss due to a mystery illness.

His associates and supporters have accused prison authorities of failing to provide him with proper medical assistance and voiced concern about his failing health.

A worker paints over a graffiti depicting jailed Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny in Saint PetersburgA worker paints over a graffiti depicting Navalny in Saint Petersburg. The graffiti reads: ‘The hero of the new age’ [File: Anton Vaganov/Reuters]

Russia has outlawed Navalny’s campaign organisation as part of a crackdown on dissent that started well before the conflict in Ukraine and has intensified in the nearly 17 months since it started.

Navalny has repeatedly denounced Putin’s war in Ukraine, describing it as a “tragedy” and saying Moscow’s defeat was “inevitable”.

The Kremlin has denied persecuting Navalny and said his case is a matter for the courts.

The opposition leader – a lawyer by training – has taken prison officials to court to retain access to what he sees as basic prisoner rights.

Navalny built a huge social media following by producing videos providing evidence of systemic corruption among Russian elites.

He still communicates on social media through his team.

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