Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny gets 19 more years in prison

Russian prosecutors had requested an additional 20-year prison sentence.

August 4, 2023, 12:35 PM

LONDON -- Russian President Vladimir Putin's most prominent opponent was sentenced Friday to an additional 19 years behind bars on extremism charges.

A Russian judge delivered the guilty verdict and sentencing in the closed-door trial against Alexey Navalny at a courtroom inside the maximum-security prison camp in Melekhovo, about 145 miles east of Moscow, where the Russian opposition leader is already serving 11 1/2 years. Russian prosecutors had requested a 20-year prison term for the latest charges, which stem from Navalny's pro-democracy campaigns against Putin's regime.

It's Navalny's fifth criminal conviction and longest prison sentence to date. All of the charges have been widely viewed as a politically motivated strategy by the Kremlin to silence its fiercest critic.

The United States subsequently called for Navalny's "immediate release," describing his latest conviction and sentencing as "an unjust conclusion to an unjust trial."

"For years, the Kremlin has attempted to silence Navalny and prevent his calls for transparency and accountability from reaching the Russian people," U.S. Department of State spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement on Friday. "By conducting this latest trial in secret and limiting his lawyers’ access to purported evidence, Russian authorities illustrated yet again both the baselessness of their case and the lack of due process afforded to those who dare to criticize the regime."

Miller added: "The United States strongly condemns Russia's continued detention of Navalny, Vladimir Kara-Murza, and the more than 500 other designated political prisoners Russia holds. We will continue to follow their cases closely and advocate for the release of all unjustly detained persons."

Navalny, a 47-year-old lawyer-turned-politician, has been in jail since 2021 upon returning to Russia after recovering in Germany from nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin. In 2022, a Russian judge added another nine years to Navalny's sentence of 2 1/2 years for embezzlement and other charges.

Earlier this year, Navalny's team sounded the alarm over his deteriorating health while in solitary confinement, saying he has not received any treatment. They said he has been repeatedly put in solitary confinement for two-week stints for months.

On the eve of Friday's verdict, Navalny said in a social media statement from behind bars that he expects a "Stalinist" sentence of about 18 years.

"When the figure is announced, please show solidarity with me and other political prisoners by thinking for a minute why such an exemplary huge term is necessary," Navalny wrote in a series of social media posts on Thursday. "Its main purpose is to intimidate. You, not me. I'll even say this: you personally, who are reading these words."

Navalny called on people to view his sentence "cold-bloodedly" and find ways to "resist" Putin's regime.

"To be honest, we always help Putin's strategy of intimidation by throwing hysterics and clutching at our hearts over every arrest," he wrote. "We must not forget about anyone, but at the same time, we must firmly realize that power in Russia has been usurped and illegally seized.

"Support political prisoners. Paint graffiti. Go to a rally," he added. "There is no shame in choosing the safest way to resist. There is shame in doing nothing. It's shameful to let yourself be intimidated."

In closing statements during his last hearing on July 20, Navalny condemned Russia's ongoing war in neighboring Ukraine.

"[Russia is] floundering in a pool of either mud or blood, with broken bones, with a poor and robbed population, and around it lie tens of thousands of people killed in the most stupid and senseless war of the 21st century," he said.

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