Prosecutors seek new prison term for Navalny
A Russian prosecutor on Tuesday asked a court to sentence opposition figure Alexey Navalny to 13 years in jail and a hefty fine for allegedly defrauding donors of his anti-corruption and political activities. He was also charged with contempt of court during a trial in a separate case.
Navalny is being tried by a Moscow court while serving a 2.8 year term under a separate sentence. The new case stems from the way his organizations used money collected through crowdfunding in Russia, which the prosecution alleges amounted to defrauding donors for personal gain.
A separate charge involves Navalny’s behavior during an earlier trial, during which he allegedly showed contempt of court by insulting the judge. The activist pleaded not guilty on all charges.
The case before the Lefortovo court in the Russian capital focuses on donations by four individuals, which in total amounted to some $24,000 at the current exchange rate. The fine that the court was asked to claim from Navalny amounts to roughly half that much.
The prosecution alleges that some of the money donated to Navalny’s organizations went to cover the personal expenses of the defendant and his associates, who currently reside outside of Russia.
It also claims there was an element of fraud in the sense that the team couldn’t legally pursue the cause for which some of the donations were being collected, namely to run Navalny’s presidential campaign in 2018. He was barred from seeking the office by a criminal sentence, which he insisted was politically motivated and could be overturned.
The contempt of court charges came from the trial that Navalny stood last year for insulting a World War II veteran. During the proceedings, which he denounced as illegitimate, the man used disparaging language towards the judge, including by comparing her to a Nazi German officer.
The Russian government has previously cracked down on Navalny’s operations in the country, adding various organizations associated with him to the list of extremist entities. Groups like his Anti-Corruption Foundation were using foreign and domestic funding to destabilize Russia through inciting protests rather than honestly pursuing legitimate goals of tackling corruption and political campaigning, Moscow claimed.
Navalny is already serving a jail term for violating the terms of his parole in another fraud case, in which he was originally sentenced to a suspended term. The prosecutor on Tuesday asked the court to order his transfer to another prison with more strict rules for inmates.
Navalny claims the Russian government wants to silence him and even sent assassins to unsuccessfully try to kill him. Moscow denies the allegations and claims they are part of the West-orchestrated campaign to discredit Russia, in which Navalny knowingly played a part.