Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands in a cage in the Babuskinsky District Court in Moscow, Russia. AP
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny returned to court on Saturday to hear his lawyers appeal against what they say was a politically-motivated decision to jail him for nearly three years.
Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic, was jailed earlier this month for parole violations he said were trumped up. The West has condemned the case and is discussing possible sanctions on Russia.
As proceedings got underway, a relaxed-looking Navalny said he had heard about a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights asking Russia to free him, a request that Moscow swiftly dismissed as unlawful.
Speaking from a glass courtroom cage, wearing green trousers and a patterned shirt, Navalny told the presiding judge it would be good if the court would now let him go.
Later on Saturday, he is due to appear in court again for what is expected to be the culmination of a separate slander trial against him.
In the slander case, Navalny stands accused of defaming a World War Two veteran who took part in a promotional video backing constitutional reforms last year that let Putin run for two more terms in the Kremlin after 2024 if he wants.
Navalny, who returned to Russia last month from Germany, where he had been recovering from a near-fatal poisoning with a military-grade nerve toxin in Siberia, described the people in the video as traitors and corrupt lackeys.
He has said his comment was not specifically directed against the veteran however, and that the authorities are using the charge to smear his reputation.
State prosecutors have asked the court to fine Navalny 950,000 roubles ($12,800) for slander.
Navalny’s arrest and jailing sparked nationwide street protests in Russia, but his allies say they have now paused serious demonstrations until the spring.
Navalny and his lawyers have argued that while he recovering in Germany from the poisoning, he could not register with Russian authorities in person as required by the terms of his probation. Navalny also insisted that his due process rights were crudely violated during his arrest
Allies of Russia’s leading opposition figure — who was jailed upon returning to Moscow after a near-fatal poisoning with a nerve agent — said they would take to the streets despite police warnings that unsanctioned public events would be “immediately suppressed.”
"Putin is afraid of the truth, I have always said this. Fighting censorship, relaying the truth to the people of Russia always remained our priority," the 45-year-old opposition politician said in a post on Instagram after the sentencing.
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