Moscow court upholds prison term for Kremlin critic Navalny

MOSCOW (AFP) – A Moscow judge on Saturday upheld a ruling to jail top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, as he lost two court cases in one day and was headed for more than two years in a penal colony.

Another court later last Saturday convicted President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent opponent on defamation charges – part of a slew of cases he has faced since returning from Germany last month after a poison attack he blames on the Kremlin.

In the first hearing on Saturday, Judge Dmitry Balashov dismissed Navalny’s appeal of a decision to imprison him for violating the terms of a suspended sentence on embezzlement charges he said were  politically motivated.

Navalny, 44, was ordered on February 2 to serve two years and eight months in a penal colony for breaching his parole terms while he was recovering in Germany.

The anti-corruption campaigner appeared in court inside a glass cage for defendants, wearing a plaid shirt, smiling and flashing the V for victory symbol.

In a closing address that often broke from his usual sarcastic tone, Navalny referenced the Bible and said he had no doubts about his decision to return  to Russia.

He described the legal process to jail him “absurd” and called on Russians to take action to make the country a better place.

“Russia should be not only free, but also happy,” Navalny said.

Prosecutors said Navalny had acted as if he was above the law and had “an exclusive right to do as he pleases”.

The judge decided to count six weeks Navalny was under house arrest as part of the time served, so he will now be imprisoned for just over two-and-a-half years.

Hours later another judge convicted Navalny of defamation for calling a World War II veteran a “traitor” for appearing in a pro-Kremlin video.

Judge Vera Akimova ordered him to pay a fine of RUB850,000s (USD11,500).