Moscow court considers opposition leader’s appeal

MOSCOW (AP) — A Moscow court considered Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s appeal against his prison sentence, as the country faced a top European rights court’s order to free the Kremlin’s most prominent foe.

The Moscow City Court considered Navalny’s appeal against a lower court ruling earlier this month that sentenced him to two years and eight months in prison for violating terms of his probation while recuperating in Germany.

The sentence stems from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that Navalny has rejected as fabricated and the European court has ruled to be unlawful.

After that, Navalny will also face proceedings in a separate case on charges of defaming a World War II veteran. Navalny, who called the 94-year-old veteran and other people featured in a pro-Kremlin video “corrupt stooges”, “people without conscience” and “traitors”, has rejected the slander charges and described them as part of official efforts to  disparage him.

Navalny, 44, an anti-corruption crusader and President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critic,

was arrested on January 17 upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian authorities have rejected the accusation.

Navalny’s arrest and imprisonment have fueled a huge wave of protests across Russia. Authorities responded with a sweeping crackdown, detaining about 11,000 people, many of whom were fined or given jail terms ranging from seven to 15 days.

Russian Federal Bailiffs service officers stand guard at the Babushkinsky district court prior to the start of the trial against Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny in Moscow. PHOTO: AP