Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Russian Opposition Leader Held for Violating House Arrest


MOSCOW – Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalni was arrested Tuesday in Moscow and charged with violating the terms of his house arrest to take part in a protest in front of the Kremlin, the Interfax news agency reported.

Navalni was detained when he and a group of supporters were heading towards Manezh Square, outside the Kremlin walls, to stage a demonstration that had not been authorized by the authorities.

The police later escorted the opposition leader to his home, where he had been kept in preventive detention since last February, forbidden to write or receive letters or to use the telephone or internet.

“The fact that they arrested me doesn’t mean a thing,” Navalni told his followers on Twitter.

Until his downfall, Navalni was considered a serious political rival to Russian President Vladimir Putin, after he received a third of the votes in the most recent elections for mayor of Moscow.

Hours earlier, Navalni had been sentenced to three and a half years house arrest after being convicted of economic crimes, with a suspended sentence. His brother Oleg was also convicted on the same charges but ordered by the judge to serve his sentence behind bars.

“This is the most disgusting and vile of all possible sentences,” Navalni said at his hearing. “The authorities not only destroy their political opponents, they also destroy and torture their families.”

Navalni won wide support among Russians for his campaign against corruption in the public administration and was one of the organizers of the massive anti-government protests of 2011.

The Navalni brothers were convicted of embezzling nearly half a million dollars from the Yves Rocher Vostok perfumery franchise, and additional six-figure sums from a firm that processes electronic payments.

The state prosecutor alleged that the two brothers subsequently laundered 21 million rubles ($300,000) through non-existent dummy companies. 


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