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Activist Gets Prison Term For Using Pepper Spray At Pro-Navalny Rally, Which He Denies

Aleksandr Federyakov pleaded not guilty to the charge, saying he did not have any pepper spray with him at the rally. (file photo)

MOSCOW -- A court in Moscow has sentenced a man to 18 months in prison for allegedly attacking a police officer during a January rally in support of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny.

The Meshchansky district court on August 9 found Aleksandr Federyakov guilty of using pepper spray against a police officer as security forces were dispersing demonstrators gathered in Moscow on January 23.

Federyakov pleaded not guilty to the charge, saying he did not have any pepper spray with him at the rally.

The Moscow-based Memorial human rights center has said it considers his criminal prosecution “politically motivated and unlawful.”

Federyakov’s lawyer said the court's ruling would be appealed.

Prosecutors had sought four years in prison for the defendant, one of several persons who were handed prison terms or suspended sentences in recent months for allegedly attacking police officers during the nationwide demonstrations on January 23 and January 31 against the arrest of Navalny.

The Kremlin critic 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.

With reporting by OVD-Info and Mediazona