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Russia’s Navalny Goes On Trial On Slander Charges

Channels Television  
Updated February 5, 2021
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, charged with violating the terms of a 2014 suspended sentence for embezzlement, stands inside a glass cell during a court hearing in Moscow on February 2, 2021. (Photo by Handout / Moscow City Court press service / AFP) 

 

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny went on trial Friday on charges of defaming a World War II veteran, days after being handed a nearly three-year prison term that sparked an international outcry.

An AFP journalist said the 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner was present in the courtroom, standing inside a glass case for defendants.

Legal pressure has been mounting on Navalny and his allies since he returned in mid-January to Russia from Germany, where he had been recovering from a poisoning attack with the nerve agent Novichok.

He was ordered by a Moscow court this week to serve two years and eight months in prison for violating the terms of a 2014 suspended sentence on embezzlement charges he says were politically motivated.

On Friday, Navalny was facing defamation charges for describing people — including the 95-year-old veteran — who appeared in a pro-Kremlin video as “the shame of the country” and “traitors” in a June tweet.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison and the court was not expected to pronounce a verdict Friday.

Navalny’s detention on his return to Moscow sparked mass demonstrations across the country that saw police arrest 10,000 protesters.

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On Thursday he called on his supporters to fight fear and liberate Russia from a leadership he described as a “handful of thieves”, while his aides said more protests were planned for later this year.

The hearing came hours ahead of a planned meeting between the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in the first visit by a senior envoy from the bloc since 2017.

Borrell said ahead of the meeting that he would raise the issue of Navalny’s detention and the police crackdown on protesters.

AFP