Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader and fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison.
Navalny, 44, was jailed at the Simonovsky District Court in Moscow over allegations he violated the conditions of a suspended sentence he received in 2014 for money laundering.
He has already spent 11 months in prison, so will therefore be jailed for just over two-and-a-half years.
More than 300 protesters were arrested for gathering outside court to demand his release, as thousands have done across Russia over the past two weeks in the largest show of defiance against President Vladimir Putin in years.
Image: The 44-year-old places a piece of paper on the inside of his glass pod in court
Before the sentencing, he told the judge: “You can’t put the whole country in jail. The aim of this hearing is to scare a great number of people. They jail one man to scare millions.”
He said he had “insulted the old man in the bunker”, in reference to Mr Putin, “by surviving” the Novichok poisoning that nearly killed him.
“He will go down in history as the poisoner. I demand my release,” he added.
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Navalny also praised his wife Yulia, who was fined for taking part in protests yesterday.
“They said that you had seriously violated public order and were a bad girl. I’m proud of you,” he said from inside a glass pod.
Image: Alexei Navalny’s wife Yulia Navalnaya arrives at court for his sentencing
The 44-year-old was arrested and detained on 17 January as he landed back in Russia from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from being poisoned by a nerve agent.
His lawyers argued he was unable to register with probation services in person while he was recuperating in Germany.
Navalny’s team maintains the Kremlin ordered his murder, a claim it denies. Mr Putin in turn alleges that Navalny is working for the CIA, a charge he rejects.
Image: A man is detained for protesting outside the court building
A statement from the Kremlin on Tuesday said Mr Putin was not following the Navalny hearing and was instead preparing for a meeting with Russian teachers.
A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson also hit out at the 20 foreign diplomats who attended the hearing, which they said “isn’t just meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign state, but the self-incrimination of the West’s unsightly and illegal attempts to contain Russia”.
Source : Sky News