Putin critic Navalny faces lengthy prison sentence in new trial

MOSCOW (AP) — Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny faces a lengthy prison term on top of the one he is already serving in a trial that Kremlin critics see as an attempt to keep the enemy in jail. ardent of President Vladimir Putin for as long as possible.

A court is expected to deliver its verdict on Tuesday. Navalny, who is serving a 2.5-year sentence in a penal colony east of Moscow, was charged with fraud and contempt of court. The prosecution accuses him of having embezzled money that he and his foundation have collected over the years and of having insulted a judge during a previous trial. Navalny dismissed the allegations as politically motivated.

The prosecution demanded 13 years in a maximum security prison for the anti-corruption crusader and a fine of 1.2 million rubles (about $10,700). It was not immediately clear whether Navalny should serve this sentence alongside his current one or in addition. The judge began reading the verdict on Tuesday morning.

The trial, which opened about a month ago, took place in a makeshift courtroom in the penal colony a few hours from Moscow, where Navalny is serving a sentence for a parole violation. Navalny’s supporters criticized authorities’ decision to move the proceedings there from a Moscow courthouse, saying it effectively limited access to the proceedings for media and supporters.

Navalny, 45, appeared at hearings in prisoner attire and gave several elaborate speeches during the trial, denouncing the charges against him as false.

Navalny was arrested in January 2021 immediately after returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from poisoning he blamed on the Kremlin, a claim Russian officials have vehemently denied. Shortly after the arrest, a court sentenced him to 2½ years in prison for violating parole stemming from a 2014 suspended sentence in a fraud case that Navalny said was motivated by political considerations.

After Navalny’s imprisonment, authorities unleashed a broad crackdown on his associates and supporters. Its closest allies have left Russia after facing multiple criminal charges, and its Anti-Corruption Foundation and a network of nearly 40 regional offices have been banned as extremists – a designation that exposes the people involved in the lawsuits.

Last month, Russian officials added Navalny and a number of his associates to a national register of extremists and terrorists.

Several criminal cases have been launched against Navalny individually, leading his associates to suggest the Kremlin intends to keep him behind bars for as long as possible.

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