Navalny in Moscow court again over alleged defamation charges

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Russia’s main Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was back in court Friday for allegedly defaming a World War II veteran, after being ordered to prison in another case that sparked global outrage and mass protests in his country.

The hearing came a little over one week after the 44-year-old opposition leader, a persistent thorn in President Vladimir Putin’s flesh, was sentenced to serve nearly three years in jail.

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The anti-corruption campaigner appeared in a glass cage for defendants at the Moscow court wearing a blue hoodie, an AFP journalist reported.

Heavily-armed riot police surrounded the court and set up cordons outside.

Navalny’s lawyer Olga Mikhailova called on the judge to allow media in the courtroom and accused her of bias, asking that she be removed from overseeing the hearing.

“Stop shaming yourself and enrol in some courses to improve your knowledge of the laws of the Russian Federation,” Navalny said, backing his lawyer’s request.

Navalny is accused of describing people who appeared in a video promoting constitutional reforms backed by the Kremlin as “the shame of the country” and “traitors” last June.

They included a 94-year-old war WWII veteran who was present in the court via video link when the trial opened last Friday.

The charges currently carry a maximum penalty of two years behind bars.

Last week a different Moscow court turned Navalny’s 2014 suspended sentence into real jail time, ordering him to serve two years and eight months in prison.

Russia’s penitentiary service had accused him of breaking the conditions of a suspended sentence for fraud by not checking in with authorities while he was recovering from a nerve agent poisoning attack in Germany that Navalny says was ordered by Putin.

Navalny’s arrest on arrival back to Russia last month sparked large nationwide protests that saw more than 10,000 detained and spurred allegations of police abuse.

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