US 'troubled' by Russia's Navalny verdict

30th December 2014, Comments 0 comments

The United States said Tuesday it was "troubled" by a Russian court's conviction of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his brother, slamming the Kremlin for silencing critics.

"The decision is a disturbing development in our view, and it appears to be designed to further punish and deter political activism," said spokesman Jeffrey Rathke, after a Moscow judge found the top Kremlin critic and his brother Oleg guilty of embezzlement.

"We are troubled by the guilty verdict handed down in the latest action against Alexei and Oleg Navalny," he added.

A Moscow judge sentenced the brothers to three and a half years in prison, but Alexei Navalny's sentence was suspended and his younger brother, who is not involved in politics, was ordered to serve the time behind bars.

"This appears to be another example of the Russian government's growing crackdown on independent voices," Rathke said of the ruling.

"We also continue to be concerned about increasing restrictions on independent media, civil society, minority groups and the political opposition."

Navalny was detained by police soon after the verdict after he violated his house arrest to join a protest in Moscow over the guilty ruling against him.

The United States urged Russia to allow greater freedom of expression, condemning Moscow for cracking down on dissidents.

"The Russian people... deserve a government that supports an open marketplace of ideas, transparent and accountable governance, equal treatment under the law, and the ability to exercise their rights without fear of retribution," Rathke said.

Russia's prison service said it was notifying the court about Navalny's house arrest violation -- a move that could see his suspended sentence converted to a term behind bars.

© 2014 AFP

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