Alexei Navalny found guilty of 'defaming' Russian veteran

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A court in Moscow has turned down an appeal by the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny against his prison sentence, the latest legal defeat for the man who has emerged as the Kremlin's most vocal critic.

The ruling came hours after another judge rejected the top Kremlin critic's appeal over his prison sentence for violating the terms of his probation.

The ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that was posted on Navalny's website on Wednesday demands that Russian Federation set him free immediately and warns that failing to do so would mark a breach of the European human rights convention.

"To change the ruling of Moscow's Simonovsky District Court: under article 72 of the Russian Criminal Code, the time Navalny spent under house arrest from 30 December 2014, to 17 February 2015, should be counted as part of the prison term, with one day under house arrest counted as one day of imprisonment".

The European Court of Human Rights said on Wednesday that Moscow should immediately free Navalny, whose arrest and jailing sparked street protests in cities across Russian Federation.

"Just imagine how wonderful life would be without constant lying", he said.

In the slander case, Mr Navalny has been accused of defaming a World War II veteran who took part in a promotional video backing constitutional reforms a year ago that let Mr Putin run for two more terms in the Kremlin after 2024 if he wants.

Mr Navalny is due to appear in court again later on Saturday for what is expected to be the culmination of a separate slander trial against him. Authorities responded with a sweeping crackdown, detaining about 11,000 people, many of whom were fined or given jail terms ranging from seven to 15 days.

"I wasn't hiding", he said.

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"I don't want to show off a lot, but the whole world knew where I was", Navalny said.

Navalny's case has galvanized the opposition movement in Russian Federation, sparking waves of protest in cities and towns across the country in January.

Mr Navalny and his supporters say the rulings and several other cases against him are a pretext to silence his corruption exposes and quash his political ambitions. "They want the righteousness and sooner or later they will have it". He was being treated for a near-fatal nerve agent attack, that he has blamed on Russian president, Vladimir Putin, The BBC reported.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands in a Moscow courtroom on Saturday.

The Russian government has rebuffed the Strasbourg-based court's demand, describing the ruling as unlawful and "inadmissible" meddling in Russia's affairs. His lawyer said on Saturday he would now spend a little over 2-1/2 years behind bars and that his legal team would try to challenge the decision to reject his appeal.

In the past, Moscow has abided by the ECHR's rulings awarding compensations to Russian citizens who have contested verdicts in Russian courts, but it never faced a demand by the European court to set a convict free. Prosecutors have asked the judge to order Navalny to pay a fine of 950,000 rubles (about $13,000).

But he has said his comments were not specifically directed against the veteran, and that the authorities are using the charge to smear his reputation.

A series of theatrical hearings in the case ended Tuesday with Navalny asking if the judge could recommend a recipe for pickles, since it is "pointless to talk about the law" with her.

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