Putin foe Navalny goes on trial in Russia

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny went on trial Wednesday on charges he says were ordered by President Vladimir Putin to eliminate a top opponent, but the process was swiftly adjourned for a week to allow the defence more time to prepare.

Hundreds of journalists and Navalny supporters descended on the provincial northern city of Kirov 900 kilometres (560 miles) from Moscow for the trial of Navalny and a co-defendant on embezzlement charges related to a timber deal.

But the first act in what the opposition claims is the latest political show trial in Putin's Russia was over in less than 40 minutes after Judge Sergei Blinov agreed to give the defence more time, adjourning the trial for one week until April 24.

Navalny, who risks up to 10 years in prison in the embezzlement case, has predicted he will be convicted and possibly jailed. Even a suspended sentence would make it illegal for him to run for office.

The trial is a potential turning point in the standoff between the Kremlin and the opposition that erupted with mass opposition protests in the winter of 2011-2102 ahead of Putin's return for a third Kremlin term last May.

Navalny -- who emerged as by far the most eloquent of the protest leaders -- had raised the stakes ahead of the trial by announcing earlier this month he wanted to stand for president.

The 36-year-old is a new breed of Russian protest leader who has yet to fully embrace party politics but has built a huge Internet following with sharply-written blogs and corruption exposes.

Dressed in a white shirt without a tie and jeans and looking relaxed, Navalny, 36, sat with his lawyers and co-defendant Pyotr Ofitserov. His right hand was bandaged after a minor injury.

Navalny flashed smiles and used a mobile phone emblazoned with Putin's face and the word "thief" to take a picture of the dozens of journalists pointing cameras at him.

The proceedings had got off to a chaotic start with judge Blinov's opening statements an almost inaudible mumble and Navalny supporters yelling at him to turn up the volume.

Navalny arrived in Kirov on the night train from Moscow in a dramatic entrance that some bloggers compared to Vladimir Lenin's arrival in Russia by train ahead of the 1917 revolution.

"One way or another I am sure that during the hearing my innocence will be completely proved. But what decision the judge makes or whoever makes the decision, we'll see," Navalny said after the adjournment.

"I won't go on about how the case is fabricated and falsified. I am completely innocent," he said. Noting that he had posted the case documents online, he added: "I think any person even without legal education can be sure of this."

It is the latest trial in post-Soviet Russia to be denounced by the opposition as a political act of revenge by Putin, after the jailing of anti-Kremlin tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the radical punk group Pussy Riot.

Navalny is charged with organising the misappropriation in a timber deal of more than 16 million rubles ($512,000/388,000 euros) from the Kirov regional government that he advised in 2009.

Blinov, who at 35 is a contemporary of Navalny, has over the last two-and-a-half-years handed out 130 convictions and no acquittals, according to the New Times weekly.

Russia's respected liberal former finance minister Alexei Kudrin wrote on his blog that the case against Navalny resembled "time travel" back to Soviet times.

Navalny's anti-corruption campaign has won a huge Internet following, boldly making claims against powerful foes like Investigative Committee chief Alexander Bastrykin and Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov.

But he still faces a struggle to make an impact at a national level, with polls showing that only a third of Russians know who he is.

Navalny's claims that the case is a political set-up were at least partially confirmed last week by the spokesman of the Investigative Committee who said the opposition leader had drawn attention to himself with his "teasing" of the Kremlin.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • China ignores global outcry vs reclamation
    China ignores global outcry vs reclamation

    On Wednesday, G-7 foreign ministers issued a Declaration on Maritime Security expressing alarm over “unilateral actions, such as large scale land reclamation, which change the status quo and increase tensions” in the region. In their communiqué, which did not specifically mention China, the ministers expressed belief that reclamation activities were meant to “change the status quo” in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, through which 40 percent of global trade passes. …

  • Project NOAH exec receives recognition
    Project NOAH exec receives recognition

    Project NOAH executive director and University of the Philippines professor Mahar Lagmay recently received recognition from the European Geosciences Union (EGU) for his work in disaster risk reduction and mitigation in the Philippines. …

  • Nightclub ban for US troops
    Nightclub ban for US troops

    The US Pacific Command has banned its troops in the Philippines from bars and nightclubs, a spokesman said yesterday, with the trial under way of a US Marine accused of murdering a transgender Filipino he met in a bar. Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers will kick off tomorrow the 10-day annual military exercises, according to Capt. Alex Lim, a spokesman for the US forces, but there will be strict controls on their free time. Lim would not say why the restrictions were imposed but …

  • US-Phl war games to start under China’s shadow
    US-Phl war games to start under China’s shadow

    Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers will kick off tomorrow expanded wargames, showcasing a deepening  defense alliance as alarm bells ring over China. The 10-day exercises in the Philippines are an annual affair between the longtime allies, but this time they will involve double the number of soldiers as last year in a sign of their expanding military partnership. The Philippines is seeking more US military and diplomatic support to fend off China’s increasing forcefulness in its bid …

  • Palace defends legal tack in sea row
    Palace defends legal tack in sea row

    There is nothing weak about taking the legal and diplomatic approach to push for the country’s claims in the disputed West Philippine Sea, Malacañang maintained yesterday. On Friday, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares led a rally in front of the Chinese consulate in Makati City to protest China’s massive reclamation activities in the Spratly island group to fortify its presence in the disputed waters. Colmenares also criticized the Philippine government for supposedly not doing enough to defend …

  • Veloso sons urge authorities to save mother from death
    Veloso sons urge authorities to save mother from death

    The sons of Mary Jane Veloso, who is facing execution in Indonesia for drug smuggling, yesterday appealed to government officials to do everything to spare their mother from death. “We love you,” Mark Daniel, 12, said when asked for a message for his mother following a press conference at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. Mark Daniel, an incoming Grade 8 student, reiterated his appeal to those in power to help save his mother from death. His younger brother, …

  • US-Philippines wargames to start under China's shadow
    US-Philippines wargames to start under China's shadow

    Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers on Monday will kick off expanded wargames, showcasing a deepening defence alliance as alarm bells ring over China. The 10-day exercises in the Philippines are an annual affair between the longtime allies, but this time they will involve double the number of soldiers as last year in a sign of their expanding military partnership. The Philippines is seeking more US military and diplomatic support to fend off China's increasing forcefulness in its bid …

  • Bar ban for US troops in Philippines amid murder trial
    Bar ban for US troops in Philippines amid murder trial

    The US Pacific Command has banned its troops in the Philippines from bars and nightclubs, a spokesman said Saturday, with the trial under way of a US Marine accused of murdering a transgender Filipina he met in a bar. Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers will on Monday kick off 10-day annual military excercises, according to Captain Alex Lim, a spokesman for the US forces, but there will be strict controls on their free time. Lim would not say why the restrictions were imposed but …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options