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Kremlin critic, opposition leader sentenced by Russian court

Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption blogger Aleksei Navalny (L) and his brother and co-defendant Oleg attend a court hearing in Moscow December 30, 2014
Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption blogger Aleksei Navalny (L) and his brother and co-defendant Oleg attend a court hearing in Moscow December 30, 2014

REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

This statement was originally published on freedomhouse.org on 30 December 2014.

In response to a Moscow court sentencing Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny to a three-and-a-half year suspended sentence and his brother Oleg Navalny to a prison term of the same length in a politically-motivated case, Freedom House issued the following statement:

"Aleksei Navalny is guilty of nothing more than daring to challenge Vladimir Putin's corrupt, repressive government," said Robert Herman, vice president for regional programs. "Any objective observer would say that the state's case against him and Oleg would fail to pass muster in a fair and transparent judicial system. Sadly, the Russian government has chosen to punish Aleksei for his activism by taking his brother hostage in the Russian prison system."

"The court's decision to change the date for delivering the verdict with less than 24 hours notice was a blatant attempt to stifle protests against a miscarriage of justice," Herman said. "We strongly caution against the use of violence against peaceful protesters that is so common in Putin's Russia, and we call for Oleg Navalny to be released and for both brothers' convictions to be overturned."

Background:
Aleksei Navalny is an anti-corruption lawyer and the most widely-recognized opposition figure in Russia today. His 2013 campaign in the Moscow mayor race posed the most serious challenge to a member of Russia's ruling party since Putin became president, in 2000. Shortly before the mayoral election, a Moscow court convicted him of embezzlement and sentenced him to five years in prison, but released him pending an appeal that was ultimately successful. Authorities used the fraud charges on which Aleksei and Oleg Navalny were convicted today to try to limit Aleksei Navalny's political influence.

Russia is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2014, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2014, Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2014, and received a democracy score of 6.29 on a scale of 1-7, with 7 being the worst possible score, in Nations in Transit 2014.

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