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Iran Press TV

Russian court hands down prison term to Alexei Navalny

Iran Press TV

Wednesday, 03 February 2021 7:09 AM

A court in Russia has sentenced opposition figure Alexei Navalny to three and a half years in prison for breaking the terms of a suspended sentence he had received seven years ago for an embezzlement case.

The Moscow City Court ruled on Tuesday that Navalny had violated the terms of the 2014 suspended sentence when he was airlifted to Germany for treatment in August last year.

The judge, however, subtracted the 10 months Navalny had spent under house arrest from the recent prison sentence.

The opposition figure would in fact serve two years and eight months in prison, his lawyer said, adding that they would appeal against the ruling.

Navalny fell into a coma while aboard a domestic flight from Siberia to Moscow in August last year. His associates and the West immediately accused Moscow of having poisoned him with a nerve agent and took him to a hospital in Berlin for treatment.

Russia has repeatedly denied the poisoning allegations.

Navalny returned to Russia last month. Russian police arrested him on arrival at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport for having violated his prison sentence.

The hearing on Tuesday was held amid heavy security measures.

Navalny's supporters gathered in central Moscow and St. Petersburg after the verdict, calling for his release.

The hearing was being covered by the Western media and attended by foreign diplomats, including US and European consulates.

Navalny repeats 'poisoning' claim

Addressing the court before the verdict, Navalny once again accused President Vladimir Putin of being behind his alleged poisoning, saying that he "offended [Putin] by surviving when he tried to have me killed."

"Putin attempted to commit murder," he said. "I'm not the only one — many know this already and many others will."

He also called the court hearing a "performance."

"This is how it works: they send one to jail to intimidate millions," Navalny said.

President Putin has formerly said that the poisoning allegations are part of a US-backed plot to try to discredit him.

Western countries call for Navalny's release

Meanwhile, European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called for Navalny's release, accusing the court of giving an "arbitrary and unreasonable" sentence in the case.

The Council of Europe said the judgement in Russia "defied all credibility."

"With this decision, the Russian authorities… exacerbate human rights violations," said the council's human rights commissioner, Dunja Mijatovic.

In Britain, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab described the ruling as "perverse."

And German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Moscow had dealt a "bitter blow to firmly established civil liberties and the rule of law."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also reiterated the "call for the Russian government to immediately and unconditionally release Navalny."

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova responded to the remarks, calling on the West to focus on its own issues.

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