MOSCOW -- Lyubov Sobol, a lawyer for jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), has been handed a one-year suspended sentence of correctional labor for trespassing in what she described as a decision designed to silence her.
The magistrate's court in Moscow on April 15 found Sobol guilty of illegally forcing her way into the apartment of Federal Security Service (FSB) officer Konstantin Kudryavtsev in December 2020, hours after Navalny had published a recording of what he said was a phone conversation with Kudryavtsev. Sobol told reporters outside the courthouse that she will appeal the verdict.
During the 49-minute phone call, in which Navalny posed as an FSB official conducting an internal review, Kudryavtsev described the details of an operation to poison the Kremlin critic in August.
Investigators say Sobol pushed Kudryavtsev's mother-in-law, who opened the door, and forcibly entered the apartment.
Sobol rejected the charge, saying she did not push Kudryavtsev's mother-in-law, but went to the apartment to meet Kudryavtsev to ask him about his conversation with Navalny.
Her team has described the case as political "revenge" for a lawyer not being afraid to ask questions of the alleged assassin.
In her final statement at the trial, Sobol reminded the court that no probe had been launched into Navalny's poisoning.
"I am sure that my verdict will be guilty. Because it is me on trial, not those who poisoned Navalny, not members of the [ruling] United Russia [party]," Sobol said.
Kudryavtsev was not summoned to the trial to testify, which investigators said was not necessary because he was neither a witness nor a plaintiff in the case.
Navalny was arrested on January 17 upon his return to Russia from Germany, where he received life-saving treatment for the poisoning in Siberia in August.
Navalny has insisted that his poisoning with a Soviet-style chemical nerve agent was ordered directly by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The FSB and the Kremlin have denied any role in the poisoning.
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 already served in detention.
The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia over the Navalny affair and ensuing crackdown on protesters.
Last month, Sobol said she planned to run for parliament's lower chamber, the State Duma, in September elections
Sobol is currently under house arrest in another case. She and several other associates and supporters of Navalny were charged with violating sanitary regulations during unsanctioned rallies on January 21 to protest Navalny's incarceration.
According to Russian law, those handed a suspended sentence of correctional labor must pay the State Treasury a certain amount of their salary if they are employed. If they are unemployed, they must work at jobs defined by the Federal Penitentiary Service during the term of their sentence.
But the suspended sentence can also be made real prison time if she violates the terms of the court.
"We understand that a suspended sentence, on the one hand, in Russia in a political case can be considered an acquittal," Sobol told Current Time, the Russian-language network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA. "But on the other hand, conditional conviction is an insidious measure, because just like that, at the snap of a finger, it changes to a real punishment for any administrative violation."
"This is such a short leash that the Kremlin wants to put me on so that I'm silent," she said, adding that she would continue her human rights activities and questioning corruption.