Alexei Navalny

Russian court finds jailed Kremlin critic Navalny guilty of fraud

epaselect epa09841676 Russian opposition leader and activist Alexei Navalny (C) and his lawyer Olga Mikhailova (2-R) are seen on a monitor screen during an offsite court session in the penal colony N2 (IK-2) in Pokrov, Vladimir region, Russia, 22 March 2022. The Lefortovo Court of Moscow, at an offsite hearing in correctional colony 2, on March 22 announced the verdict against Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in the case of fraud and insulting the court. The founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, Alexei Navalny, was poisoned in the summer of 2020 and taken to Berlin for treatment, from where he flew to Moscow in January 2021. Immediately upon his return to Russia, he was detained and arrested. Since March 2021, he has been in a colony in the city of Pokrov, Vladimir Region. EPA-EFE/YURI KOCHETKOV

March 22 (Reuters) - A Russian court found jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny guilty of large-scale fraud and contempt of court on Tuesday, a move likely to see the time that President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic spends in jail extended by years.

Navalny is already serving a two-and-a-half sentence at a prison camp east of Moscow for parole violations related to charges he says were fabricated to thwart his political ambitions.

In the latest criminal case against him, which he has also dismissed as politically motivated, he could have up to 13 years added to that sentence.

A gaunt Navalny stood besides his lawyers in a room filled with prison security officers as the judge read out the accusations against him. The 45-year-old seemed unfazed, looking down as he flipped through court documents.

Prosecutors had asked the court to send him to a maximum-security penal colony for 13 years on charges of fraud and contempt of court. A ruling is expected later on Tuesday.

Judge Margarita Kotova said Navalny had committed a criminal offence by publicly insulting the court.

She confirmed he had pleaded not guilty to the fraud charges against him.

Navalny was jailed last year when he returned to Russia after receiving medical treatment in Germany following a poison attack with a Soviet-era nerve agent during a visit to Siberia in 2020. Navalny blamed Putin for the attack.

The Kremlin said it had seen no evidence that Navalny was poisoned and denied any Russian role if he was.

After the last court hearing into his case on March 15, Navalny struck a typically defiant tone, writing via Instagram: “If the prison term is the price of my human right to say things that need to be said … then they can ask for 113 years. I will not renounce my words or deeds.”

Russian authorities have cast Navalny and his supporters as subversives determined to destabilise Russia with backing from the West. Many of Navalny’s allies have fled Russia rather than face restrictions or jail at home.

Navalny’s opposition movement has been labelled “extremist” and shut down, although his supporters continue to express their political stance, including their opposition to Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine, on social media.

(Writing by Kevin Liffey/Reuters reporters; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)


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