Alexei Navalny is a prominent critic of Vladimir Putin and the Russian government
Amnesty International has said the world should “not overlook” the jail term handed to the Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and called the case against him politically motivated.
There have been widespread calls for him to be released immediately.
Navalny has been jailed for nine years after being found guilty of large-scale fraud and contempt of court, he is facing 13 years in a maximum security penal colony.
He was already serving a prison sentence – but his new jail term and the charges against him have caused outrage among his supporters, and has been condemned by politicians and organizations across the world.
The 45-year-old himself has spoken out about his fate via his Twitter account.
But who is Alexei Navalny and why is he in prison?
Who is Alexei Navalny?
He is leader of the Russia of the Future party and founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation. The lawyer and activist has organized anti-government demonstrations and run for office on an agenda of reform against corruption in Russia and against President Vladimir Putin and his government.
Last year the Moscow prosecutor office requested the Moscow City Court to designate political organizations linked with Navalny, including the Anti-Corruption Foundation as extremist organisations. The foundation was liquidated by the court.
Navalny has millions of followers on his You Tube and social channels where he has published anti-corruption materials and organized demonstrations.
In 2013 and 2014 he received suspended sentences for embezzlement the cases were considered to be politically motivated.
He launched his presidential campaign in 2016 for the 2018 election, however he was barred by the Russian Central Election Commission due to having a criminal conviction.
It was later ruled he would not be eligible to run until 2028.
In 2020 he was hospitalized after being poisoned with Novichok nerve agent, which he blamed on the Kremlin – a claim denied by Russia.
In August 2020 the UK Government imposed sanctions on seven Russian nationals accused of involvement in the nerve agent poisoning.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) announced the individuals, said to be members of the Russian Federal Security Service, would be subject to travel bans and asset freezes.
Why is he in prison and on what charges?
Navalny was arrested in January last year after recovering from the nerve agent poisoning, and was sentenced to a two-and-a-half year prison term in February for violating the terms of a suspended sentence for an embezzlement conviction.
He went on trial again accused of fresh fraud charges last month inside the maximum-security prison east of Moscow where he is detained. He pleaded not guilty and says the charges are politically motivated.
He was accused of taking donations worth 2.7 million rubles that were given to his political organisations.
As well as the nine-year prison term, The Guardian reports he was also fined 1.2 million roubles ($11,535).
It comes after Russia passed new laws that mean people who spread “fake” information could be jailed for up to 15 years. It also means public calls for sanctions against Russia are a criminal offence.
What has Navalny said about his new prison term?
A series of posts appeared on Navalny’s Twitter page, one which stated: “9 years of strict regime. My space flight is taking a bit longer than expected – the ship is caught in a time loop. It occurred to me that my role in this saga is similar to that guy from Interstellar.”
Another said: “I am very grateful to everyone for their support. And, guys, I want to say: the best support for me and other political prisoners is not sympathy and kind words, but actions. Any activity against the deceitful and thievish Putin’s regime. Any opposition to these war criminals.”
Other tweets posted on his account on Tuesday said: “As I said in my ‘last word’, we are not just continuing the operations of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, we are going to take them to a new level.
“The ACF will become a global international organization. And we really need you in it.”
He said the money given to him by the European Parliament as part of the Sakharov Prize will be the first contribution to the fund.
“EU citizens, via their representatives, gave me this award for the fight against corruption. I am grateful and I’m allocating their money to continue this fight,” he said.
Navalny said on his Twitter account: “Fighting against censorship and bringing the truth to the people of Russia has remained our priority.
“The Kremlin smashes the media, and in response we create new ones.”
What has Amnesty International said?
Human rights body Amnesty International analyzed the fraud case against him and concluded it was politically motivated.
Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Director, said:“This sentence us predictable but nonetheless shocking.
“Navalny faces nine years in prison for calling out the Russian elite for corruption and abuse of power.
“The world must not overlook this sentence and its significance amid the horrific human rights violations we have seen as a result of Russian aggression against Ukraine.
“I applaud Navalny’s commitment to challenging corruption and other abuses, even in the face of years behind bars.”
What else has been said?
Meanwhile, Downing Street has said a new prison term handed to Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was the continuation of “trumped up charges that Putin uses against those that seek to hold him to account”.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Our thoughts are with Alexei Navalny and his family as he continues to show incredible bravery in standing up to Putin regime.”
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Twitter: “I condemn the politically-motivated sentence imposed on @Navalny and call on the Kremlin to release him immediately.”
While Bloomberg reports Germany has called for the immediate release of Navalny.
German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said in a Twitter post there is “nothing to justify” the judgment, and said: “The external aggression and internal repression have reached a new dimension in Russia.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.