Kremlin critic Navalny faces decisive court decision

President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent opponent faces two court decisions on Saturday that could seal a judge’s decision to imprison him for several years, after he returned to Russia after a poisoning attack.

A Moscow court is set to rule on Alexei Navalny’s appeal of this month’s decision to jail him for nearly three years for violating the terms of a suspended sentence for embezzlement.

Should Navalny win his appeal on Saturday, his victory could still be short-lived.

Prosecutors in a separate trial have called for a $ 13,000 fine for calling a World War II veteran a “traitor” on Twitter last year, and a verdict is also expected on Saturday.

They have also asked Navalny to be imprisoned on the same fraud conviction, saying his tweet referring to the veteran was published during the probation period.

Supporters of the outspoken opposition figure say the verdicts and several other cases against the 44-year-old are an excuse to silence his corruption, revealing and nullifying his political ambitions.

He was sentenced to almost three years in prison on February 2 for violating the terms of a conviction when he recovered in Germany from the poisoning attack that nearly killed him.

That decision stemmed from a temporary sentence he received in 2014 for embezzlement, a decision that the European Court of Human Rights considered arbitrary.

The decision of the European Court of Justice was rejected

The 94-year-old veteran in the middle of the defamation trial appeared in a video mocked by Navalny for promoting constitutional reforms that passed last year and could allow President Putin to remain in power until 2036.

A series of theatrical hearings in the case ended on Tuesday with Navalny asking if the judge could recommend a pickles recipe, as it is “pointless to talk about the law” with her.

Putin came under pressure to release Navalny when he was arrested on arrival at a Moscow airport in January.

The arrest sparked huge protests across the county, with more than 10,000 people detained, while the European Union threatened to impose new sanctions on Russia.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled this week that Russia must release Navalny immediately, in a move quickly brushed aside by the Kremlin.

Navalny’s allies believe that Russia’s non-compliance with the decision could lead to its expulsion from the Council of Europe and exacerbate a crisis in Moscow’s ties with Europe that began with the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

‘Putin’s chef’

EU member Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday that a group of EU foreign ministers will meet with two top Navalny assistants in Brussels on Sunday.

Navalny aides in talks with EU representatives this month called on the bloc to sanction people close to Putin.

Another court in Moscow this week rejected Navalny’s appeal of a fine of 3.3 million rubles (36,825 euros, 44,449 dollars) that he was ordered to pay a catering company in another defamation complaint.

These accusations were made by the opposition figure by businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, nicknamed “Putin’s chef” because his company Concord took care of the Kremlin.

The 59-year-old businessman, who is under US and European sanctions, has two ongoing cases against Navalny that will be dealt with in March.

( Jowharwith AFP)