Navalny faces 15 more years in prison as new trial begins in Russia

Alexei Navalny, the main contender for the president’s rule Vladimir Putin From Russia, at a court hearing on Tuesday to face charges of embezzlement and contempt of court that may extend his prison sentence for 15 years.

The trial began as Mr. Putin grabbed the world’s attention by engaging in high stakes Confrontation with the West over Ukraine. Mr Navalny’s supporters said they believed the trial was deliberately scheduled to coincide with the crisis to divert attention from his case.

The proceedings were held in a prison outside Moscow, where Navalny, who has accused Mr. Putin of ordering his security services to assassinate him, is serving a sentence that expires next year. The Kremlin denied the accusations by Mr. Navalny.

Mr Navalny, standing in a makeshift courtroom in his prison uniform, accused the court of deliberately holding the trial in a criminal colony hours from Moscow to reduce media attention and obstruct the work of his lawyers, who were not allowed to present their laptops with case materials.

“I am not afraid of this court, of the criminal colony, of the FSB, of prosecutors, of chemical weapons, of Putin and all the others,” Navalny said in court. Video from his statement. “I am not afraid because I think it is humiliating and useless to be afraid of all this.”

Russian investigators accused Mr. Navalny and his associates of setting up his anti-corruption foundation for the purpose of embezzling people’s donations, Court documents said. Investigators said Mr Navalny posted inquiries about “alleged corruption among government officials at various levels” to lure the donations. They said that Mr. Navalny tried to participate in the 2018 presidential election for this purpose. (Russian election officials have banned Mr. Navalny from running for president.)

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In particular, investigators accused Mr. Navalny of stealing $35,000 from four people who testified against him. in a Video Published before the trial, Mr. Navalny’s ally, Ivan Zhdanov, accused two of the four victims named in the case of cooperation with the Russian government of “slandering an innocent person for money”.

“These are people who were brought in by hand, given money to someone else and asked to pay in one go,” Mr. Zhdanov said, adding that the criminal case was opened just a day after one of the four victims sent a donation to the foundation.

Zhdanov said the other two people who testified against Mr. Navalny had been pressured to do so. He said one of them faces up to 10 years in prison, and the other is under investigation for tax evasion.

Over the past decade, Mr. Navalny has built a political organization with offices in major cities. Despite mounting police and government pressure, Mr. Navalny’s organization has managed to unite some of Mr. Putin’s most vocal critics and helped organize some of the largest street protests against his government.

In 2013, when the Russian government allowed Mr. Navalny to run for mayor of Moscow, he came close to defeating the current pro-Kremlin candidate, receiving more than 630,000 votes.

However, Mr. Navalny’s popularity grew along with the decreasing Kremlin tolerance of his activities.

Mr Navalny was arrested for breaching parole at Moscow airport after returning to Russia last year from Germany, where he was recovering from poisoning, he said. It was organized by the Russian government. Since his return and subsequent sentencing, Mr. Navalny and his companions and supporters have done so Faced increasing pressure from the Russian government.

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Multiple criminal cases were opened against him and his allies. His anti-corruption organization and political organization have been declared extremist and banned. Many of his allies were forced to flee Russia. Some were arrested and remained in detention.

“You offended your black master Putin not only by staying alive, but by returning,” Navalny said in his testimony before the judge and prosecutors. “Now, he will increase my prison terms forever,” he added, referring to Mr. Putin.

Addressing the judge and the prosecutors, he said, “But I think the worst real crime I could commit would be to be afraid of you and those behind you.”

The next hearing in his case is scheduled for Monday.

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