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Election Commission Member Handed Prison Term For 'Attacking Police' At Navalny Rally

Roman Pichuzhin, an opposition member of Moscow's district election commision

MOSCOW -- A court in Moscow has sentenced an opposition member of the city's district election commission to two years in prison for hitting a policeman during an unsanctioned rally in January to support jailed Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny.

The Meshchansky district court on June 29 found Roman Pichuzhin, a member of the opposition Yabloko party, guilty of punching an officer during a January 23 rally. He was sentenced the same day.

Pichuzhin's lawyer, Dmitry Zakhvatov, said his client was helping a demonstrator who was being attacked by police at the rally. Zakhvatov added that Pichuzhin will appeal the court ruling.

Several people have been handed prison terms or suspended sentences in recent weeks for attacking police during the nationwide demonstrations held in January after Navalny was arrested.

Navalny was detained at a Moscow airport on January 17 upon his arrival from Germany, where he was recovering from a poison attack by what several European laboratories concluded was a military-grade chemical nerve agent in Siberia in August.

Navalny has insisted that his poisoning was ordered directly by President Vladimir Putin, which the Kremlin has denied.

In February, a Moscow court ruled that while in Germany, Navalny had violated the terms of parole from an old embezzlement case that is widely considered as being politically motivated. Navalny's 3 1/2-year suspended sentence from the case was converted to a jail term, though the court said he will serve 2 1/2 years in prison given time he had been held in detention.

More than 10,000 supporters of Navalny were detained across Russia during and after the January rallies. Many of the detained men and women were either fined or handed several-day jail terms. At least 90 were charged with criminal misdeeds and several have been fired by their employers.