MOSCOW (AP) A Moscow court on Saturday rejected Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalnys’ appeal against his prison sentence, even as the country faced a high-level European court order to release the Kremlin’s most prominent enemy.
Speaking before the decision, Navalny urged the Russians to stand up to the Kremlin in a fiery speech by mixing references to the Bible and Harry Potter.
A lower court sentenced Navalny earlier this month to two years and eight months in prison for violating the terms of his probation while recovering in Germany from a nerve agent poisoning he blames on the Kremlin. Russian authorities have denied the allegations.
Navalny, 44, an anti-corruption crusader and most vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin, appealed the prison sentence and demanded his release. The judge of the Moscow City Court on Saturday only slightly reduced his sentence to a little more than 2 1/2 years in prison, deciding that a month and a half Navalny spent under house arrest in early 2015 will be reduced from the sentence of his.
The sentence stems from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that Navalny has rejected as fabricated and the European Human Rights Crash has decided to be illegal.
His arrest and imprisonment have sparked a wave of protests across Russia. Authorities responded with a sweeping crackdown, detaining about 11,000 people, many of whom were fined or sentenced to prison terms ranging from seven to 15 days.
In his speech at the hearing, Navalny referred to the Bible as well as Harry Potter and the animated sitcom Rick and Morty as he urged Russians to resist pressure from the authorities and challenge the Kremlin to build a fairer and more prosperous country. .
The task of governments is to scare you and then convince you that you are alone, he said. “Our Voldemort in his palace also wants me to feel cut off,” he added, referring to Putin.
To live means to risk everything, he continued. Otherwise, you are just an inert piece of randomly collected molecules that go wherever the universe blows you.
Navalny also addressed the judge and prosecutor, arguing that they could have a much better life in a new Russia.
Just imagine how wonderful life would be without constant lies, he said. Imagine how good it would be to work as a judge … when no one would be able to call you and give you instructions on what decisions to make.
He insisted he was unable to report to authorities in accordance with his probation requirements as he was being reconvaled to Germany after his poisoning, stressing that he returned to Russia immediately after being allowed health.
I was not hiding, he said. The whole world knew where I was.
Navalny said he was an atheist before, but has managed to believe in God, adding that his faith helped him face his challenges. He said he believed the Bible saying that those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness are blessed and that he felt no remorse when he returned home.
“Even though our country is built on injustice and we all constantly face injustice … we also see that millions of people, tens of millions of people, want justice,” Navalny told the court. They love justice and sooner or later they will.
Asked about the impact of Navalny’s prison sentence on Russian politics, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the country’s rich and multifaceted political scene would develop regardless of the decision.
Russia has dismissed Western criticism of Navalny’s arrest and crackdown on demonstrations as interference in its internal affairs.
In a ruling Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights ordered the Russian government to release Navalny, citing the nature and degree of danger to the applicants’ lives. The Strasbourg-based court noted that Navalny has challenged the Russian authorities’ argument that they had taken sufficient measures to protect his life and well-being in custody following the nerve agent’s attack.
The Russian government has rejected the ECHR request, describing the decision as illegal and unacceptable interference in Russia’s affairs.
In the past, Moscow has complied with ECHR rulings granting compensation to Russian citizens who have challenged rulings in Russian courts, but it has never faced a request from a European court to release a convicted prisoner.
As a sign of its long-standing annoyance with Strasbourg court rulings, Russia last year passed a constitutional amendment that declares the primacy of national legislation over international law. The Russian authorities can now use that provision to overturn the decision of the ECHR.
Later Saturday, Navalny also faced prosecution in a separate case on defamation charges against a World War II veteran. Prosecutors have asked the judge to order Navalny to pay a fine of 950,000 rubles (about $ 13,000).
Navalny, who called the 94-year-old veteran and other people featured in a pro-Kremlin video last year as corrupt fraudsters, unscrupulous people and traitors, has denied the defamation allegations and described them as part of the effort. official to devalue it.
Navalny said at the hearing that his accusers would be burned in hell.