Russian prosecutors are seeking a 10-year sentence for Alexei Navalny, a leading opponent of Vladimir Putin and a Western media darling. Navalny, who has focused on exposing state corruption, is already under house arrest for a previous charge that many claim is trumped up, and now he stands accused of corruption himself. Reuters reports:
Russian prosecutors said on Friday Kremlin foe Alexei Navalny should be imprisoned for 10 years for stealing 30 million rubles ($500,000) in a case dismissed by critics of President Vladimir Putin as part of his campaign to stifle dissent.Navalny, who led mass protests against Putin three years ago, denies guilt, as does the other defendant in the case, his brother Oleg, for whom the prosecution is seeking eight years in jail. […]The brothers stand accused of stealing from two firms, including an affiliate of the French cosmetics company Yves Rocher between 2008 and 2012. The verdict is expected on Jan.15.“The guilt of the defendants has been fully proven,” prosecutor Nadezhda Ignatova told the Moscow court.She said the 10-year term would cover the current charges as well as an earlier conviction for embezzling 16 million rubles from a state timber company.
Western media outlets that only know Navalny as the opposition leader at the center of several mass protest movements against Putin are prone to praise him reflexively. That’s unwise; Navalny’s hands are not as clean as many anti-Putin Westerners might hope, and his ultra-nationalist rhetoric (“Stop feeding the Caucasus!”) frequently approaches racist nativism. That said, and though we hardly claim to know the true facts of the case, Putin has made it beyond clear that he is willing to use the judiciary for political ends.Even if it’s close to true that almost nobody with money and power in modern Russia got to his position honestly, you need only look at whom the Russian courts have decided to prosecute (whom they have not) to understand their political nature. In Putin’s Russia, the judiciary, like everything else, is an instrument of the President’s personal cult of power. When the court makes its final decision on Navalny’s case in January, it will not be act of any real system of jurisprudence.