Navalny Greets Suspended Sentence With Anti-Putin Rally Call – Bloomberg

Posted: Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Opposition leader Alexey Navalny was given a
suspended sentence for fraud and money laundering, charges for
which his brother faces 3 1/2 years in prison, as thousands plan
to rally by the Kremlin.

The 38-year-old lawyer called for supporters to protest
after a Moscow court found him and his brother, Oleg, guilty of
defrauding the Russian branch of French cosmetics company Yves
Rocher. They have denied any wrongdoing.

President Vladimir Putin is staring down increasing dissent
at home as he grapples with the worst economic crisis since
2009. Falling oil prices and U.S. and European sanctions over
the conflict in Ukraine are tipping Russia toward recession.

“This time they’re purposefully destroying, torturing and
tormenting the relatives of people who are their political
opponents,” Navalny told reporters after the verdict. “I call
on everyone to go to the streets until the authorities, who grab
and torture innocent people, are ousted.”

Judge Elena Korobchenko of Moscow’s Zamoskvoretsky District
Court didn’t immediately explain the difference in the
sentences, saying the legal reasoning will be given later.

Navalny had shouted out in the courtroom that the decision
to jail his brother was “filthy.” His lawyer Vadim Kobzev told
TV Rain that the defense considered the verdict unlawful and
would appeal. The brothers were also fined 500,000 rubles
($8,700) each.

‘Hostage’ Brother

“This case isn’t based on jurisprudence but on something
else,” Irina Khrunova, a lawyer for the Pussy Riot punk group,
said by phone. “Oleg Navalny is a hostage. That’s an even
stronger blow for Alexey than if he’d been jailed himself.”

The verdict, scheduled for Jan. 15, was moved forward
suddenly to just before Russia’s 11-day winter break. The
authorities may have been attempting to thwart protests as many
Russians will be on holiday, according to Nikolai Petrov, a
scholar at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow.

Navalny, an anti-corruption activist, helped lead the
biggest street protests of Putin’s 15 years in power in
2011-2012. He’s continued to agitate for the Russian ruler’s
ouster, even though he’s been kept out of the public eye and
under house arrest since February.

“These authorities don’t deserve to exist; they need to be
eliminated,” he told reporters today.

Ruble Gains

The benchmark Micex Index fell 2 percent to 1,404.56 by
3:45 p.m. in Moscow, after four days of gains. The ruble
strengthened 1.8 percent against the dollar to 57.289. The
Russian currency is the world’s second-worst performer this
year, after Ukraine’s hryvnia, according to data compiled by
Bloomberg.

A Facebook Inc. page supporting Navalny called for a
demonstration at 7 p.m. today in Moscow’s Manezh Square, next to
the Kremlin. The temperature is forecast to drop to minus 16
degrees Celsius (3 degrees Fahrenheit).

About 18,000 people signed up for the opposition rally.
Russian authorities blocked another Facebook page earlier this
month promoting a similar event on the original date of the
verdict.

The Kremlin won’t comment on the verdict, RIA Novosti
reported, citing Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

The prosecutors, who sought a 10-year sentence for Alexey
and an eight-year sentence for Oleg, will form their position on
the decision and punishment after getting a copy of the verdict,
Nadezhda Ignatova, of the Moscow prosecutor’s office, told
reporters.

That sentencing request for Alexey Navalny included the
suspended term from an earlier case involving a timber company
in the Kirov region.

“This is a foul story. It’s not a verdict, it’s
retribution,” Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and
now opposition leader, said by phone. “This totally discredits
the judicial system in a country that has already been
discredited.”

To contact the reporters on this story:
Olga Tanas in Moscow at
otanas@bloomberg.net;
Anton Doroshev in Moscow at
adoroshev@bloomberg.net;
Anna Andrianova in Moscow at
aandrianova@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Balazs Penz at
bpenz@bloomberg.net
Torrey Clark, Paul Abelsky

Comments

Write a Reply or Comment:

Your email address will not be published.*