Russian prosecutors seek 10-year term for Kremlin critic Navalny

19th December 2014, Comments 0 comments

Russian prosecutors Friday called for leading Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny to be sentenced to 10 years in prison for allegedly defrauding French cosmetics company Yves Rocher of more than half a million dollars.

Presenting their closing arguments in a Moscow district court the prosecutors called for the charismatic anti-corruption campaigner, who has rallied opposition to President Vladimir Putin, to be sent to a prison colony if convicted, Russian news agencies reported.

Navalny, a 38-year-old lawyer, is accused together with his brother Oleg of embezzling nearly 27 million rubles (more than half a million dollars at the exchange rate at the time) when Yves Rocher Vostok, the company's Russian wing, used their delivery service.

The prosecutors said a 10-year term would cover both the Yves Rocher case and a 2013 fraud conviction for which Navalny received a suspended term.

The activist and his brother deny the charges, which they say are politically motivated.

"This is a battlefield between the scoundrels, who have seized power, and honest people," Navalny was quoted by Mediazona legal news site as telling the court Friday.

Addressing the prosecution, Navalny said the case was "based on utter lies."

"I don't want these lies and I don't want to put up with them," he said.

Yves Rocher has said it suffered no financial harm by working with the Navalny brothers.

In a statement sent to AFP Friday the company said an internal audit had found the brothers' delivery prices to be "competitive".

The court reserved judgement until January 15.

Navalny has spent almost all of the past year under house arrest, banned from communicating with anyone except close relatives, his defence team and law enforcement officials.

His house arrest was extended Friday from January 15, when it was due to expire, until February 15.

The anti-corruption campaigner has been targeted in a number of court cases.

He was sentenced to five years in jail in a separate embezzlement case last year involving a state timber company.

That sentence was later suspended.

Navalny won respect as an anti-corruption blogger before becoming the star speaker at mass rallies against Putin's return to the Kremlin in 2012. He coined the slogan "Party of crooks and thieves."

He came second in Moscow's mayoral race last year against a Kremlin-backed incumbent.

© 2014 AFP

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