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Russian Prosecutors Seek 10-Year Sentence For Navalny


Aleksei Navalny made light of the prosecutors' request in a posting on Twitter.
Aleksei Navalny made light of the prosecutors' request in a posting on Twitter.

Russian prosecutors have asked a court to sentence opposition leader Aleksei Navalny to 10 years in prison in a theft case the critic of President Vladimir Putin says is part of a Kremlin campaign to stifle dissent.

Prosecutors made the request on December 19 as Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky district court wrapped up the trial of Navalny and his brother, Oleg.

They are charged with stealing 31 million rubles ($520,000) from two companies, including an affiliate of French cosmetics firm Yves Rocher, and of laundering some of the money.

Prosecutors said that their guilt had been proven and asked for a 10-year sentence for Aleksei Navalny and an eight-year sentence for Oleg.

Defense lawyer Kirill Polozov said "the indictment was not backed up by any evidence" and asked the court to acquit both men.

Navalny said on Twitter that the judge announced a verdict would be issued on January 15.

Prosecutor Nadezhda Ignatova said the 10-year sentence for Aleksei Navaly would cover both the charges in the case being tried and his 2013 conviction on a charges of stealing 16 million rubles from a state timber company.

Navalny, 38, is an anticorruption crusader who helped lead antigovernment protests in 2011-12 and unsettled the Kremlin with a strong showing in a Moscow mayoral election in 2013.

He is serving a five-year suspended sentence on the 2013 conviction, which he has dismissed as punishment for challenging Putin through protests, political activity, and investigations into high-level corruption.

The suspended sentence means he is not jailed, but he has been under house arrest since late February.

Navalny made light of the prosecutors' request in a posting on Twitter, saying: "One must find a silver lining in everything. 10 years -- at least it's easy to count how old you will be when you get out."

Speaking briefly to reporters outside the courtroom, Navalny struck a more defiant note, saying, "Sooner or later this junta, which has laid their hands on everything in Russia, and is building a resource-based feudal capitalism, will fall."

Government critics have frequently accused the Kremlin of using the courts as a political lever.

Courts have rejected repeated attempts by prosecutors to order Navalny into pretrial detention, most recently in August, prompting speculation that the Kremlin fears that putting him behind bars could prompt protests.

In 2013, Navalny was initially sentenced to prison and was placed in detention, but he was released the following day -- after sizable protests near the Kremlin in central Moscow -- and his sentence was later suspended.

With reporting by Interfax and ITAR-TASS
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