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Russian opponent Alexeï Navalny will appear twice in court, Saturday, February 20, for violation of his judicial review and defamation. He risks in particular a three-year sentence in a forced labor camp, after having already been sentenced, on February 2, to two years and eight months of imprisonment.

The main critic of the Kremlin, Alexeï Navalny, targeted by multiple legal proceedings, appears in court twice on Saturday, cases which risk leading him to a forced labor camp for nearly three years.

These two hearings will take place as the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) this week asked for the release of the 44-year-old anti-corruption activist, arguing a risk to the life of this opponent who survived in extremis to poisoning last year.

This decision was immediately rejected by Moscow, which had already brushed aside calls to this effect from the European Union, despite the threat of new sanctions.

Returned to Russia in January from a convalescence after the poisoning of which he accuses the Kremlin, Alexeï Navalny was arrested on his arrival at the airport and was sentenced on February 2 to two years and eight months in prison.

The court converted a 2014 suspended prison sentence for fraud to a firm sentence for violating its judicial review. It is the appeal of this judgment which must be examined Saturday morning.

Ouliana Solopova, spokeswoman for the Moscow courthouse, said the prison services will be free to transfer the opponent to one of Russia’s many labor camps if the February 2 decision is upheld.

“As a general rule, if the appeal confirms the decision of the court of first instance, this decision is considered to have entered into force and enforceable,” she told AFP.

Moreover, on Saturday afternoon, Alexeï Navalny will appear before another judge in a trial for “defamation” of a veteran of the Second World War.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office requested a fine of 950,000 rubles in this case (approximately 10,600 euros) and also demanded that the opponent’s suspension be converted into a prison.

A legacy of the Soviet Union, most prison sentences in Russia are served in prison camps sometimes located far from everything. The work of inmates, usually in sewing or furniture-making workshops, is compulsory there.

The conditions of detention are also regularly denounced by human rights defenders.

Multiple procedures

Alexeï Navalny, whose imprisonment in January had led to three days of demonstrations repressed by the police, denounces the legal procedures set up from scratch and has spent the previous hearings defying the court.

According to him, the Kremlin wants to throw him in prison to silence him, after failing to kill him by poisoning him last summer. Moscow rejects these accusations.

“They put on their dresses, took their hammers, put Navalny in a glass cage and pretend to do justice”, noted on YouTube Thursday one of the closest collaborators of the opponent, Ivan Jdanov.

Other cases are ongoing. Russian justice is seized in particular of a complaint for defamation lodged against Alexeï Navalny by the sulphurous businessman Evguéni Prigojine, reputed close to President Vladimir Poutine.

He is also being investigated for fraud, a case under investigation in which the maximum penalty is 10 years in prison.

The European Union and the United States have increased the calls to release Alexeï Navalny, while the opponent’s collaborators urged the West to sanction senior Russian officials and close to Vladimir Putin.

Moscow sees it as “interference” in its affairs and has threatened the Europeans with reprisals.

Alexei Navalny and his supporters plan to organize further protests against power in the spring and summer, ahead of legislative elections.

With AFP

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