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Kremlin Foe Navalny Challenges House-Arrest Order

A lawyer for Aleksei Navalny says it is "very strange" to issue a suspended sentence, which means the convict is not jailed, and at the same time order house arrest.
A lawyer for Aleksei Navalny says it is "very strange" to issue a suspended sentence, which means the convict is not jailed, and at the same time order house arrest.

Kremlin opponent Aleksei Navalny has challenged a court order confining him to house arrest until the suspended sentence he was handed on December 30 enters into force.

A lawyer for Navalny, Vadim Kobzev, said he filed an appeal against the house arrest order because "we consider it unlawful and baseless."

Navalny has been under house arrest since February.

The judge who convicted and sentenced him and his brother, Oleg, in a politically charged fraud case on December 30 ordered him to remain under house arrest until a ruling is made on his planned appeal against the verdict.

Kobzev said it was "very strange" to issue a suspended sentence, which means the convict is not jailed, and at the same time order house arrest.

Meanwhile, corrections officials said they filed a report documenting Navalny's violation of the terms of his house arrest by trying to attend an antigovernment rally outside the Kremlin following his conviction.

The Moscow district court that tried Navalny said the same day that it had returned the report to corrections officials and seemed to indicate it would not act on it.

Navalny, who had called for Russians to protest until President Vladimir Putin's government is removed, was detained on his way to the rally and was taken to his Moscow apartment.

Police dispersed the rally and a group that monitors police actions said more than 250 people were detained. Most of the detainees were soon released, although about 70 spent the night in jail. There were no reports of injuries.

A Moscow court on December 31 sentenced two of the protesters to 15 days in jail on charges of resisting arrest.

On December 31, Navalny posted an impassioned New Year's statement on his website, calling on activists to organize "large demonstrations" simultaneously in Moscow and "five to 10" large Russian cities.

'Fight Against Corruption'

The slogans for such protests, Navalny said, should be the fight against corruption, judicial abuse, the right to participate in elections, and the return of the direct elections of governors and mayors.

"These are the issues that 85 percent of the population agrees with us on," he wrote.

The court on December 30 gave Navalny a 3 1/2 year suspended sentence.

His brother Oleg was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison and remanded immediately to custody, prompting Kremlin critics to accuse the state of using Oleg Navalny as a "hostage" in its battle with Aleksei Navalny.

Defense lawyers said later that it was illegal for the court to hold Oleg Navalny in custody for an economic crime before his appeals are exhausted.

In addition to the sentences, Judge Yelena Korobchenko ordered the men to pay a fine of 500,000 rubles ($8,500) each and to pay 4.4 million rubles ($70,000) in compensation to one of the companies they were charged with defrauding.

Defense lawyers said they will appeal the verdicts. Prosecutors, who had requested 10-year prison terms for the brothers, said they might also appeal the sentences as too lenient.

The EU's foreign policy chief said on December 30 that the charges seemed to be politically motivated, and the U.S. State Department said the verdicts appeared to be "another example of the Russian government's growing crackdown on independent voices."

Russia lashed out at the United States and EU over their criticism, accusing them of "attempts to put pressure on the Russian court system and politicize a purely criminal case."

In a statement on December 31, the Foreign Ministry said that before criticizing Russia, "it behooves our Western partners to deal with what is going on" in their own countries.

Navalny, who is already serving a 5-year suspended sentence on a separate 2013 theft conviction, denies any wrongdoing.

He says the cases against him are part of a campaign to keep him out of politics and punish him for leading protests and spearheading high-profile anticorruption investigations targeting powerful allies of Putin.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service, AFP, Reuters, and Interfax
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