News / Europe

Putin Foe Navalny Faces Prison if Appeal Rejected

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny
FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— Convicted at a trial he describes as Vladimir Putin's revenge for his political challenge, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny faces five years in prison if his appeal against a theft conviction is rejected on Wednesday.
 
The court hearing in the remote city of Kirov also poses a conundrum for President Putin.
 
Jailing Navalny would keep Putin's most prominent critic out of elections for years, curtailing any threat from a young rival with presidential ambitions who scored a strong second-place showing in a Moscow mayoral vote last month.
 
But it could also revive street protests by Putin's opponents and human rights activists over what they see as a clampdown on dissent since the 61-year-old president started a six-year third term in 2012.
 
While Putin denies exerting influence over the courts, many Russians suspect that rulings in high-profile cases are dictated by the Kremlin and result from careful political calculation.
 
“The Kremlin has an unpleasant decision to make,” said Dmitry Oreshkin, a political analyst.
 
A ruling upholding the five-year sentence would be seen by many as evidence that tough tactics will continue despite signals meant to suggest a let-up, such as Putin's promise of a prisoner amnesty later this year.
 
A blogger against corruption among Russia's elite, Navalny helped lead the biggest protests of Putin's 13-year rule, which were stoked by allegations of fraud in a December 2011 parliamentary election.
 
The protests have faded, but Navalny has emerged as the main opposition leader, making his trial the most closely watched in Russia since jailed former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky's second conviction in 2010.
 
Accused of stealing timber while working as an adviser to the governor of the Kirov region in 2009, Navalny - who denies wrongdoing - was convicted of large-scale theft in July and sentenced to five years in prison.
 
Free for now
 
But he was unexpectedly freed from custody the following day to allow him to continue his campaign for Moscow mayor.
 
Some analysts say the Kremlin was betting he would suffer a humiliating defeat, but he won 27 percent and nearly forced the incumbent, Putin ally Sergei Sobyanin, into a runoff.
 
“It's difficult for the Russian authorities to jail Navalny, because he has won legitimacy in the form of support from 600,000 people who voted for him,” said Liliya Shevtsova, a senior associate at the Carnegie Moscow Center thinktank.
 
Because Navalny's popularity is limited in Russia's far-flung regions and Putin faces no imminent threat to his rule, Shevtsova said that for the Kremlin it would make little sense to “turn Navalny into a Russian Mandela”.
 
While many analysts expect Navalny's conviction will stand, some predict his sentence might be reduced or suspended, keeping him out of prison but also out of elections.
 
Some cautioned, however, that his chances of staying out of jail should not be overestimated.
 
“Putin's power structure instinctively follows the standards of the Stalin or Brezhnev era, when inconvenient and critical people were isolated,” Oreshkin said. “The temptation to do that with Navalny will be great.”
 
Navalny, who used a smartphone to send tweets during his trial, kept up his anti-corruption campaign on the eve of the hearing with a blog post about an enormous apartment allegedly owned by the wife of an ice hockey star turned lawmaker.
 
He maintained a wry air on Twitter, writing: “I'm really tired of going to Kirov and it's cold there :(“
 
In response to an invitation to a performance at a Kirov theater on Wednesday evening, he tweeted: “I'll be there of course”.

You May Like

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Open Source Seeds Hit the Market, Raise Awareness

First open source seeds include 29 new varieties of broccoli, celery, kale, quinoa and other vegetables and grains More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid