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Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny sentenced to imprisonment in the penal colony

The Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny has been imprisoned for several years – a Moscow court decided. Chancellor Merkel demands his immediate release.

The Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has been sentenced to more than two years in a prison camp in Moscow. The competent court in the Russian capital ruled on Tuesday that the 44-year-old had to serve a three and a half year suspended sentence in a penal colony, with previous house arrest being deducted from the time. Navalny had violated probation conditions in a previous criminal case, the judge announced on Tuesday.

Immediately after the verdict was announced, supporters of President Vladimir Putin’s main adversary called for an immediate demonstration in Moscow on the online service Twitter. Thousands demonstrated in Moscow, hundreds of arrests were made. Read more about it here.

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The close confidante of Navalny Leonid Volkov tweeted: Putin tried to kill Navalny and imprisoned him because he survived. “Putin is ready to do anything for his palace. There is nothing in his head but greed, fear, and hatred.”

A (ridiculous) 3.5 year sentence for @navalny. Since he has spent 1 yr under house arrest, he is to serve 2.5.

Perhaps even more incredible:

Take a look at the strength and love he and his wife, Yulia exhibit as the sentence is read. pic.twitter.com/NFJx0zLNXe

In the process criticized as politically motivated, the prison system demanded three and a half years’ imprisonment for Navalny, and the public prosecutor’s office said that one year Navalny was under house arrest should be taken into account. The 44-year-old Navalny said during the trial that he did not comply with the probation requirements and did not report to Moscow during his stay in Germany: “I was treated in Germany.” Read more about the process here.

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Navalny’s lawyers want to challenge the verdict

President Vladimir Putin’s opponent had recovered for five months from an attack with the chemical warfare agent Novichok in Berlin and Baden-Württemberg. Navalny blames Putin for the poison attack.

Navalny, who took the verdict quietly, used the process to make an emotional appearance that the media described as “historic” and a new attack on Putin. “His only fighting instrument is killing,” he said of Putin. He sees the trial as the Kremlin’s punishment for not dying. Putin and the FSB had rejected the attack allegations.

Navalny’s defense lawyers want to challenge the prison sentence that has now been imposed. “Of course we will appeal,” said lawyer Olga Mikhailova in the courtroom. In addition, she wants to turn to the Council of Europe if an earlier decision by the European Court of Justice is not followed. The judges in Strasbourg had classified the judgment of 2014 as arbitrary and awarded Navalny damages, which Russia had paid.

Maas: “Navalny must be released immediately”

Chancellor Angela Merkel demanded the immediate release of Navalny. “The verdict against Alexey Navalny is far from any rule of law. @Navalny must be released immediately,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert quoted the Chancellor on Tuesday evening on Twitter. And further: “The violence against peaceful demonstrators must stop.”

Germany’s Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU) sharply criticized the condemnation of Nawalny. “First poison Navalny and then put him in jail for not fulfilling probation requirements while lying in a coma? Pure cynicism,” wrote the CDU politician on Twitter on Tuesday. She provided her criticism with the hashtag “#FreeNavalny”.

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Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) also called on Russia to release Navalny: “The verdict against Alexej Navalny is a bitter blow against firmly established freedom rights and the rule of law in Russia,” the minister wrote on Twitter. The European Court of Human Rights had already criticized the procedure as arbitrary in 2017. “Alexej Navalny must be released immediately,” Maas continued.

The verdict against Alexej @Navalny is a bitter blow to firmly documented freedom rights and the rule of law in #Russia. The ECHR already criticized this procedure as arbitrary in 2017. Alexej #Nawalny must be released immediately.

The US and UK are also demanding release

The USA and Great Britain also demanded freedom for Navalny shortly after the verdict. Navalny must be released “immediately and unconditionally,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The demonstrators arrested in recent weeks should also be released.

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