Russian opposition leader Navalny sentenced to 3.5 years of imprisonment

Russian opposition leader Aleksey Navalny will also remain in prison in the coming years. The Moscow judge has converted the 3.5 year conditional imprisonment imposed in 2014 for fraud into an unconditional sentence. That was also the demand of the Public Prosecutors Office.

However, the year under house arrest as part of this case is deducted from his time in captivity. The prosecution had insisted on this in her closing plea. His lawyer has informed us that Navalny has two more years and eight months to serve.

When he was expelled from the courtroom after the conviction, he said to his wife Yulia: โ€œIt will be all right.โ€ Just before that, he had drawn a heart for her on the glass of the cage in which he had been sitting all day.

Navalny (44) was arrested on 17 January on return from Germany and has been detained since then. The Russian prison service wanted Navalny to disappear behind bars for 3.5 years, because he had violated the terms of his 2014 sentence. Navalny had not appeared at a hearing, because in Germany he recovered from an attack on his life with a nerve poison.

In 2014, the opposition leader was convicted of embezzling half a million dollars from two Russian firms working with the French cosmetics company in the so-called Yves Rocher case. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the fraud process was not fair.

Correspondent Iris de Graaf on what the prison sentence for Aleksey Navalny means for his role as opposition leader:

Thats what Navalny said to the judge. โ€œThis is about me being imprisoned for a trial that has been declared illegal.โ€ Navalny, who holds President Putin responsible for his poisoning, said that he is now being prosecuted for insulting the person behind the poisoning by surviving the attack. According to him, the charges are a โ€œfutile attempt to intimidate millions of people in the countryโ€. โ€œBut you cant put the whole country in jail.โ€

Navalnys plea was not only about the charges, but it also had a political thrust. He lost his temper when the prosecution asked again why he hadnt reported for the hearing. โ€œWhat do you not understand what Im saying to you?โ€

The opposition leader referred to Putin as โ€œa little man living in a bunkerโ€. About Putins geopolitical ambitions, he said that the president will not go down in history as a defender of Russian foreign policy, but as Vladimir the underpants poisoner, referring to the way he was poisoned.

The arrest of Navalny led to major protests throughout Russia over the past two weekends. On Sunday, tens of thousands of supporters went to the streets to demand the release of the politician. Over 5,000 people were arrested.

Also during the session, there was a demonstration at the Moscow court. There was a lot of riot police on their feet. 311 protesters have been apprehended, the police reports. Before the verdict, the area of the court was hermetically sealed.