Putin critic Alexei Navalny sentenced to 3 1/2 years after returning to Russia following poisoning

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Alexei Navalny seen at Moscow City Court for a hearing on February 2, 2020. Moscow City Court Press OfficeTASS via Getty Images
  • Russia sentenced Alexei Navalny to 3 1/2 years on Tuesday for violating a 2014 suspended sentence.
  • Navalny missed probation meetings because he was being treated for poison in Berlin, his lawyers said.
  • Navalny was poisoned with Novichok on August 20, 2020. He accuses Putin of sanctioning it.
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Alexei Navalny, the arch-critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was on Tuesday sentenced to three and a half years’ imprisonment by a Moscow court.

The 44-year-old was accused of violating a 2014 suspended sentence for embezzlement after missing several scheduled parole meetings with Russia’s prison service.

Navalny will spend two and a half years in prison, as he has already spent one year under house arrest, the judge said.

Lawyers for Navalny said he missed the meetings because he was in Berlin receiving medical care following the August 20, 2020, poisoning attempt on his life, according to The Moscow Times.

When asked why he missed the meetings, Navalny told the court: “I was in a coma.”

Navalny returned to Russia on January 17, and was immediately detained at a Moscow airport. On January 18, he was remanded in custody for 30 days.

Navalny intended to check in with law-enforcement officers upon returning to Russia, his lawyers said, but he was unable to do so because he was detained, The Moscow Times reported.

Navalny has accused Putin of ordering the hit on his life, and an investigation by Bellingcat and CNN found that the attack was carried out by agents of Russia’s FSB spy agency. The Kremlin denies involvement.

“Putin is not following today’s Navalny hearing,” the president’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Tuesday.

Navalny’s detention prompted two weekends of protest across Russia, where police detained and arrested thousands of demonstrators, including Navalny’s wife, Yulia.

At least 237 protesters who had gathered outside the Moscow courtroom in support of Navalny on Tuesday have been detained, the Moscow Times said.

The court also denied a request from Navalny’s lawyers that the hearing should be filmed by TV crews. Journalists were not permitted to take photos, but official court photographs showed the activist in a glass box in the courtroom.

The 2014 sentence saw Navalny and his brother Oleg accused of stealing $US500,000 from two firms, including an offshoot of the French cosmetics company Yves Rocher, between 2008 and 2012.

Oleg Navalny was sentenced to three and a half years in prison while Alexei Navalny was given a suspended sentence.

Experts have called the accusation and conviction politically motivated.

In early January 2021, Navalny’s foundation released an investigation into what they say is a $US1 billion coastal palace Putin is building in secret that is funded by bribes. The Kremlin called the report “pure nonsense” and that the property had “nothing to do with either the president or the Kremlin.” In his closing statement on Tuesday, Navalny attacked Putin,saying: “However much he pretends to be a great geopolitician, he’ll go into history as a poisoner.”

Read Navalny’s full speech here.