Opposition activist and former Moscow mayoral candidate Alexei Navalny in court in Kirov, Russia, Thursday© RIA Novosti. Ramil Sitdikov
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WASHINGTON, July 18 (RIA Novosti) – The White House said on Thursday that it is “deeply disappointed” by the conviction and prison sentence handed down by a Russian court against opposition leader Alexei Navalny, which it called a politically motivated act aimed at silencing opponents of the regime in the Kremlin.
“Navalny’s harsh prison sentence is the latest example of a disturbing trend of government actions aimed at suppressing dissent and civil society in Russia,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters at a briefing.
“We call on the Russian government to cease its campaign of pressure against individuals and groups seeking to expose corruption and to ensure that the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of all of its citizens including the freedoms of speech and assembly are protected and respected,” he said.
A court in the city of Kirov, around 560 miles (900 kilometers) east of Moscow, on Thursday convicted and sentenced Navalny, a whistleblowing blogger and one of Russia’s most prominent opposition protest leaders, to five years in prison for masterminding a 2009 embezzlement scheme involving a state-owned timber supply company in the Kirov region.
Navalny, 37, has denied the charges, claiming the trial was politically motivated.
His co-defendant Pyotr Ofitserov was sentenced to four years in prison for his part in the scheme.
US lawmakers joined the chorus of outrage over the sentences, with the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Robert Menendez, accusing Russia of "returning to its old authoritarian ways where opposition voices were silenced and trumped up charges ended in unfair verdicts, oftentimes resulting in imprisonment for the falsely accused."
"The Russian government must reverse course and end this assault on people’s freedoms and right to political expression. It can begin by freeing Alexei Navalny,” he said.
Sen. John McCain, an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling the conviction “a total farce if it were not so deeply tragic, especially for Russia.”
“Navalny's show trial, as well as the posthumous conviction last week of another opponent of corruption, Sergei Magnitsky, are only the most recent examples of how the Putin government seems determined to drag Russia back to some of the worst aspects of its past,” McCain said, calling for the immediate release of “all of Russia’s political prisoners.”
Magnitsky, a lawyer who was detained after he accused Russian officials of a $230 million tax fraud, was convicted posthumously earlier this month on tax evasion charges. He died in a Moscow prison in 2009.
Sen. Ben Cardin slammed the charges against Navalny as “trumped up” and called the guilty verdict a “sham” that “will only embolden, not end, the growing campaigns to name and shame corrupt officials and those who blatantly betray the trust of the Russian people.”
Sen. Roger Wicker said Navalny’s conviction was proof “that Russia is not committed to upholding basic human rights.”
“I stand with those Russians, like Mr. Navalny, who are committed to shining a spotlight on the oppressive Putin regime," he said.
The guilty verdict against Navalny and Ofitserov “makes the world wonder whether Russia is more committed to attacks on political dissidence than it is to the rule of law,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, calling for Navalny to be released immediately.
Human Rights Watch called the verdict “shocking” and said the case that was built against Navalny was “part of a broader government crackdown under way in Russia to silence a fierce critic and weaken the opposition movement.”
Andrew Kuchins, director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, called the verdict “very depressing.”
“It’s another piece of evidence that one cannot count on an independent legal system in Russia that can arbitrarily – or not so arbitrarily, as was the case here – take you down,” he told RIA Novosti.
“Opponents of the ruling regime in Russia, this is how they’re dealt with,” he said.
Updates with quote from Sen. Robert Menendez.
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- ValSHypocrite American Government00:29, 19/07/2013For anyone to comment about human rights violations from the American Government is laughable! It is hypocritical!
Take this statement from White House spokesman Jay Carney who said, "We call on the Russian government to cease its campaign of pressure against individuals and groups seeking to expose corruption and to ensure that the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of all of its citizens including the freedoms of speech and assembly are protected and respected,” he said.
As a person living in America I can tell you right now, if a large group of people want to peacefully gather in a group, you will be paid a visit by the police and told to disperse. I think about Snowden and his sharing about the violations of privacy rights; corruption; how the US government says he is a traitor; in fact, all he did was share something many with a thinking brain cell knew or suspected; that the government of the US was engaged in illegal spying.
- ValSAdd on to my last comment00:36, 19/07/2013...and to continue what I was going to say; try exposing fraud and corruption in the United States Government, you will be paid a visit by Secret Service or other police agencies. They, the US Government is so busy pointing out all of the negatives or making up negatives in other countries while at the same time ignoring their own bribery, corruptions and questionable and/or illegal activities of their very own.
- ValSAnother add on...01:14, 19/07/2013Maybe some things not so bad and honestly I do see some attempts at cleaning up problems in the United States Government; but to point out issues in other countries is wrong IMHO without also acknowledging issues the US also has.
How about talking about how the governments can work together to rid corruption instead of just finger pointing?
Also correction regarding peaceably assemble. I was informed that you can but it requires a permit that you have to pay for. Also depends upon the kind of gathering and purpose.
- bielecThis from the government that:04:21, 19/07/20131. Used artificial pretexts to disperse gatherings of the Occupy Wall Street movement and other protests;
2. Has given itself the right to assassinate political opponents in other countries and its own citizens without due process and right to legal defence;
3. Has used lies and tricks to legalize and/or get away with extraordinary rendition, indefinite detention and torture;
4. Has been violating international law and human rights by conducting illegal wars of conquest (the so called oil wars) under the false pretext of war aganst fabricated terrorism;
5. Had prior knowledge and, very likely, direct involvement in organizing and leading the 9/11 attacks;
6. Is using terrorism to achieve political goals in other, sovereign, countries (e.g., Iraq, Libya, Syria);
7. Is financing, supporting, and arming terrorist organizations and terrorist states (e.g., Israel);
8. Is supporting the illegal occupation and annexation of Arab lands by Israel, its apartheid political system, as well as crimes against peace and war crimes committed by Israel against its neighbors;
9. Is directly responsible for the death and injuries of millions of innocent people, as a result of the use of murderous, politically motivated sanctions, military interventions, coups, fals-flag operations, use of mercenaries and terrorists, assassinations and drone attacks, use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions (e.g., in Iraq)...
... and the list goes on.
- bielecBTW,04:34, 19/07/2013...a claim that Navalny's conviction and prison sentence were politically motivated requires valid and reliable evidence that he was not guilty of embezzlement charges.
If the US government has such evidence, they should make it public. If they don't have such evidence, they should shut up.
- bielecOne more needle:04:38, 19/07/2013Here is the US government defending the rights of an opposition leader and anti-corruption activist Navalny, while at the same time, they demand that a whistleblower and anti-corruption activist Snowden is returned to the USA for a politically motivated trial. What a farse!
- Wolfgang9The German TV10:15, 19/07/2013had quite a number of comments to that subject here. And NONE was actually talking about the crime which was the base of the sentence. All talk about "political decision" etc. but none about what really was the reason for that court! The typical ideological blackmailing with almost NO facts and only innuendo directed primarily against Putin. I guess the media in the US are acting almost the same as in the Banana Republic of Germany!
- Panthera PardusAs they say in Italy "aver la faccia come il culo"10:33, 19/07/2013literally "having a face looking the same as own ass" , for example you could have a long relation with a prostitute below legal age of consent and then stand in public for traditional family value... and then still get elected in a free election, so it could be inferred that in the end aver la faccia come il culo pays off, this is the only explanation to have an American clown saying to Russia "to ensure that the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of all of its citizens " - right, yeah put Prism in the picture of the fundamental freedom.. violation of fourth amendment anyone? But still they get worried about Russia.. Berlusconi should double as image advisor and spin doctor for the American Government
If attempts to drag Russia into a direct military conflict in Ukraine are successful, it would be a catastrophe for Russia comparable to the 1979-1989 Afghan war. There is no direct evidence that the US is trying to bring about a second Afghan war, but indirect evidence abounds.