Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was sentenced to to three and a half years in jail on Tuesday after a court found he had violated the terms of a suspended 2014 conviction, drawing an outpouring of international outcry.
Navalny’s lawyers told Reuters he is planning to appeal his sentencing, adding that his prison term would be reduced due to his year already serving under house arrest.
The ruling came despite mass protests across the country calling for his release.
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Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau said Canada was “appalled” by the decision to imprison Navalny.
“We call on Russia to release those unjustly detained immediately, including peaceful protestors and journalists,” he said in a tweet.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also joined in, adding that he would be coordinating with allies “to hold Russia accountable for failing to uphold the rights of its citizens.”
“We reiterate our call for the Russian government to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Navalny, as well as the hundreds of other Russian citizens wrongfully detained in recent weeks for exercising their rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly.”
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British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called for the “immediate release” of Navalny following his sentence in Moscow.
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“The U.K. calls for the immediate and unconditional release of [Alexei] Navalny and all of the peaceful protesters and journalists arrested over the last two weeks,” he said in a statement to Global News.
“Today’s perverse ruling, targeting the victim of a poisoning rather than those responsible, shows Russia is failing to meet the most basic commitments expected of any responsible member of the international community.”
He cited the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling on the 2014 embezzlement claim against Navalny, which concluded that his sentence was “unlawful and arbitrary” and “politically motivated.”
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Navalny, a fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was arrested on Jan. 17 in passport control after his flight from Berlin to Moscow, which Russian authorities said violated terms of his parole over a suspended money-laundering conviction in 2014.
During court proceedings, he said he was unable to meet the conditions for his parole because he was recovering from being poisoned.
Navalny was in Germany for five months recovering after being poisoned by a deadly military-grade nerve agent called Novichok, which he said was part of an attempt to assassinate him. Putin has denied the accusations.
“Someone did not want me to take a single step on my country’s territory as a free man. And we know who and we know why — the hatred and fear of one man, living in a bunker, whom I offended by surviving when he tried to have me killed,” he said, adding that Putin would go down in history as a “poisoner.”
“The aim of that hearing is to scare a great number of people,” Navalny said. “You can’t jail the entire country.”
His imprisonment inspired a large wave of protests across Russia, where more than 5,000 people were arrested on Sunday, including roughly 2,000 in Moscow.
More to come.
— With files from Reuters and The Associated Press
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