Moscow court fines opposition leader Navalny for defamation

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A Moscow court on Saturday convicted top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny for defamation, just hours after another court upheld an order for him to serve more than two years in prison in another case. The prosecution had asked the court transcript to show Navalny was to blame for the elderly veteran's malaise.

"To change the ruling of Moscow's Simonovsky District Court: under article 72 of the Russian Criminal Code, the time Navalny spent under house arrest from 30 December 2014, to 17 February 2015, should be counted as part of the prison term, with one day under house arrest counted as one day of imprisonment".

Mr Navalny returned to Russian Federation last month from Germany, where he had been recovering from a near-fatal poisoning in Siberia in August with what many Western nations said was a nerve agent.

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said on Twitter the court's ruling was at odds with a call by the European Court of Human Rights this week to free Navalny, and could lead to more sanctions against Moscow.

That ruling stemmed from a suspended sentence he was given in 2014 for embezzlement, a ruling the European Court of Human Rights deemed arbitrary.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands in a Moscow courtroom on Saturday.

Putin, who makes a point of never uttering Navalny's name, has said Russian state security agents would have "finished the job" if they had wanted to kill Navalny who he suggested was not important enough to eliminate.

"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 righteousness", Navalny told the court.

Navalny, who called the 94-year-old veteran and other people featured in a pro-Kremlin video "corrupt stooges", "people without conscience" and "traitors", has rejected the slander charges and described them as part of official efforts to disparage him.

Navalny has also found support from across much of the global community.

Alexei Venediktov, one of Russia's most prominent journalists, noted what he called a defeatist atmosphere within the opposition in the absence of immediate plans for street protests.

Mr Navalny reportedly responded sarcastically to the ruling. "Our Voldemort in his palace also wants me to feel cut off".

"To live is to risk it all", he continued.

"Just imagine how wonderful life would be without constant lying", he said.

The Russian government has rebuffed the Strasbourg-based court's demand, describing the ruling as unlawful and "inadmissible" meddling in Russia's affairs. He was being treated for a near-fatal nerve agent attack, that he has blamed on Russian president, Vladimir Putin, The BBC reported.

The Russian Justice Ministry warned in a statement carried by the Tass news agency that the ECHR's demand referencing the rule would represent a "crude interference into the judicial system" of Russia and 'cross the red line'.

In a sign of its long-held annoyance with the Strasbourg court's verdicts, Russian Federation a year ago adopted a constitutional amendment declaring the priority of national legislation over worldwide law.

State prosecutors have asked the court to fine Navalny 950,000 roubles ($16,300) for slander.

But he has said his comments were not specifically directed against the veteran, and that the authorities are using the charge to smear his reputation.

"You'll burn in Hell for all of this", he said.

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