Moscow Court Convicts Kremlin Critic Alexei Navalny In Defamation Case

Moscow court rejects Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's appeal against his prison sentence

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has lost an appeal against what he says was a politically motivated decision to jail him for almost three years, but his prison term has been slightly shortened.

Mr Navalny said he had no regrets about returning to Russian Federation, that his belief in God helped sustain him, and that "strength was in truth".

Russian authorities have rejected the accusation.

Navalny, a 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner who has emerged as President Vladimir Putin's most prominent opponent, was arrested in January when he returned to Russian Federation after months in Germany recovering from a nerve agent poisoning he blames on the Kremlin.

A Moscow City Court judge reduced the sentence from two years and eight months to just over two and a half years.

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said on Twitter the court's ruling was at odds with a call by the European Court of Human Rights this week to free Navalny, and could lead to more sanctions against Moscow.

On February 16, the European court of human rights (ECHR) ruled that Russian Federation risked breaching the European Convention on Human Rights if it did not release Navalny immediately, according to Bloomberg.

The verdict was another legal blow for Navalny, after an appeals court earlier in the day upheld a prison sentence for the opposition leader due to a parole violation.

Europe's top human rights court ordered Russian Federation to release Navalny after ruling that his life is at risk on Tuesday.

"The government's task is to scare you and then persuade you that you are alone", Navalny said.

Navalny has also found support from across much of the worldwide community.

"Our Voldemort in his palace also wants me to feel cut off", he added, in a reference to Mr Putin.

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"To live is to risk it all", he continued.

The arrest sparked large protests across the county that saw more than 10,000 people detained, while the European Union threatened to impose new sanctions on Russian Federation.

"Political life will be rich and multifaceted", Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

The court noted that Navalny has contested Russian authorities' argument that they had taken sufficient measures to safeguard his life and well-being in custody following the nerve agent attack.

Mr Navalny responded sarcastically to the ruling.

The ECHR pointed to Rule 39 of its regulations and obliged the Russian government to release Navalny, citing 'the nature and extent of risk to the applicant's life'.

A law enforcement officer walks with a dog near a court building during a hearing on Alexei Navalny's appeal of his sentence in Moscow on Saturday.

In a reflection of its simmering irritation with the European court's verdicts, Russian Federation a year ago adopted a constitutional amendment declaring the priority of national legislation over global law.

Another Moscow court this week rejected Navalny's appeal against a fine of 3.3 million rubles (€36,825, $44,649) that he was ordered to pay a catering company in another defamation lawsuit.

But he has said his comments were not specifically directed against the veteran, and that the authorities are using the charge to smear his reputation.

Later on Saturday, Navalny will also face proceedings in a separate case on charges of defaming a Second World War veteran.

"You'll burn in Hell for all of this", he said.

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