A Moscow court sentenced Alexei Navalny to 9 years in prison, although there were even prosecution witnesses for him - ForumDaily
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The Moscow court sentenced Alexei Navalny to 9 years in prison, although there were even prosecution witnesses for him

On March 22, the Lefortovo Court of Moscow sentenced Alexei Navalny to nine years in a strict regime colony in a case of fraud and contempt of court, reports Meduza.

Photo: Shutterstock

The process took place not in Moscow, but in a colony in the Vladimir region, where Navalny has been serving his sentence in the Yves Rocher case since last year. On the second day of the trial, Russia recognized the DPR and LPR, and on the fourth day, it started a war against Ukraine. All this inevitably affected the public's attention to the process (although Mediazona continued to conduct text broadcasts from there, including after its blocking in early March). Here's what happened in court.

What was Navalny accused of?

The investigation alleged that Alexei Navalny, acting along with his associates Leonid Volkov and Roman Rubanov, committed fraud by collecting donations for the creation of anti-corruption investigations and for the 2018 presidential campaign. In the latter case, according to investigators, Navalny was misleading supporters because he could not run due to a criminal record. Navalny and his comrades were allegedly going to spend the collected money “for personal purposes, as well as for the activities of the NO FBK.”

Press releases from the UK claimed that $3 of the $420 collected by Navalny was spent for personal purposes. At the same time, there were four victims in the case, who together transferred about $ 626. Two of them were considered dummy by the oppositionist’s associates, two more were real supporters of Navalny, whom the investigators forced to write statements because of their own problems with the law.

The fraud case was merged with a contempt case brought in last year's libel suit. According to the investigation, during the process, Navalny insulted the judge and other participants in the process.

The prosecution requested that Navalny be sentenced to 13 years in prison in a strict regime colony and a fine of $10.

How was the process

The Lefortovo Court of Moscow considered the case in correctional colony No. 2 in the Vladimir region, where Navalny is being held. This is very rare - as Kholod wrote, such off-site meetings most often relate to applications for parole and other issues related to serving a sentence. There are no known examples when a Moscow court held a meeting in a different region altogether. Navalny's defense indicated that such a decision was made in order to close the process from the public.

On the subject: Mathematician from Ukraine hanged himself in Moscow: he was not allowed to leave Russia after the start of the war

The case was heard in the assembly hall, but most journalists followed the process from another room via video broadcast. They could enter the assembly hall itself without electronic equipment - with a notebook and a pen. Judging by the online Mediazones, the sound and picture quality was not always good; sometimes the broadcast just cut off. This happened, in particular, on the penultimate day, when Navalny spoke at the debate and delivered the last word.

What is known about the "victims"

Navalny’s associates consider the handyman Alexei Koshelev, who donated $2020 in 10 and then allegedly became disappointed, and pensioner Mikhail Kostenko, who transferred $000 in 2017 (and then sued Leonid Volkov for the return of this amount), to be “dummy” victims. The amount of Koshelev's donation corresponds to the amount, after the theft of which it is possible to initiate a case of fraud on an especially large scale. The size of Kostenko's donation made it possible to consider his claim in the district court, and not in the world court.

Navalny's side drew attention to the fact that Koshelev transferred money to an account number that was not publicly available. Questions were also raised by the significant amount of the donation - Koshelev himself said that he earns about $ 15 a year. Koshelev could not meaningfully answer these claims in court. The victim also demands that Navalny compensate him for moral damage, because his daughter was allegedly detained at a rally in support of Navalny and is now "drinking antidepressants."

Pensioner Mikhail Kostenko, who had already sued Navalny's associates over his donation, spoke in court via video link. He said that lawyer Ilya Remeslo helped him write the statement - a man who positions himself as an opponent of Navalny and, for example, acts as an "expert" on the opposition on federal television. Remeslo represented him in court in 2017, and was a witness for the prosecution during this trial; as Navalny's team said, Craft is an old acquaintance of Mikhail Kostenko's son-in-law. During the process, the pensioner, as follows from the broadcasts from the court, answered many questions that he did not remember how he abandoned the civil lawsuit against Navalny and said that he had no claims against him.

Vyacheslav Kuzin from Samara, who donated $10 over several years, performed behind closed doors. According to Navalny's side, he is under house arrest for his "past banking activities" and faces up to 000 years in prison. Entrepreneur Alexander Karnyukhin, who donated a total of $10, admitted during the meeting that he only felt victimized when he was invited to the Investigative Committee. “The Investigative Committee explained to me from the very beginning that the FBK organization is extremist, which means that the money was used for other purposes,” Mediazona quotes him.

Who acted as witnesses

Probably the most striking event of the process was the retraction of his testimony by Fedor Gorozhanko, a former FBK employee whom the prosecution called as a witness. Gorozhanko had a conflict with Navalny's associates - a year ago they accused him of stealing the database that Navalny's supporters left on the site; he denied everything.

At the trial, Gorozhanko stated that he intended to act as a witness for the defense and called the case against Navalny absurd and "fakely staged." He also said that the investigators put pressure on him, demanding that he memorize the wording from the indictment.

After his speech, Gorozhanko left Russia. He told Mediazona that on the eve of the trial he was in the UK, where he was not only forced to learn the wording of his testimony, but also hinted that he himself, as a former FBK employee, could become a defendant in a criminal case. On March 22, the day of the verdict, Gorozhanko, together with Navalny's associates, published a record of these statements by the investigator.

Numerous defense witnesses also spoke out in support of Navalny at the trial, including Yevgenia Albats, editor-in-chief of The New Times, who called her regular donations to Navalny’s projects her “best investment in life”, politician Ilya Yashin, human rights activist Sergei Davidis, journalist Bozena Rynska, and also donors who said they did not consider themselves misled by Navalny.

Incriminating statements were made, in particular, by Navalny's former associate Vitaly Serukanov, who now works for RT, and lawyer Ilya Remeslo, who helped Mikhail Kostenko write a statement.

On March 15, Navalny's associates said that Remeslo was receiving money from companies linked to former Kremlin official Konstantin Kostin. In Kostin’s hacked mail, they found proposals to organize provocations against Navalny with “controlled donations”: so that a person who was not seen in a negative attitude towards the oppositionist would send him a donation, and then go to court to get them back.

In the same video, Navalny’s associates said that Judge Margarita Kotova, presiding over the trial, according to them, called up at least several times on the days of the meetings with an employee of the presidential administration, Yevgeny Vladimirov, before the start of the meeting and during technical breaks. Both Kotova’s calls and Craft’s connections with Kostin were considered by Navalny’s associates as a sign that the case was fabricated.

On March 18 - four days before the verdict - it became known that Margarita Kotova had been promoted and appointed a judge of the Moscow City Court.

You may be interested in: top New York news, stories of our immigrants and helpful tips about life in the Big Apple - read it all on ForumDaily New York.

After the announcement of the verdict, Navalny's statement appeared on social networks, in which he called on his supporters to continue their activities. “The numbers don't matter. It's a sign above the bunk, that's all. And neither I nor my comrades will simply ‘wait’,” Navalny promised.

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