A Russian court punished top Vladimir Putin critic Alexei Navalny and his brother Tuesday in an attempt to suppress dissent.
Navalny was given a suspended sentence on for embezzlement, but the court jailed his brother for more than three years. ”Aren’t you ashamed of what you are doing?” Navalny asked the court and judge, according to Reuters. “Why are you putting him (my brother Oleg) in prison? To punish me even harder?”
Shortly after the sentencing, Navalny violated the terms of his house arrest and was reportedly detained by police once more.
The brothers were accused of embezzling 30 million rubles – roughly $500,000 – over four years, but perhaps more notable is Navalny’s role leading mass protests against corruption and Putin three years ago, mobilizing tens of thousands to take to the streets and protest.
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The Kremlin denies allegations that it is using the court to stifle dissent. Though his brother will spend three and a half years in prison, Navalny’s sentence will leave him under house arrest, not in jail for 10 years as prosecutors requested. He was already serving another suspended sentence for a conviction last year, which critics say was also aimed at suppressing dissent.
“The authorities are torturing and destroying relatives of their political opponents. This regime doesn’t deserve to exist, it must be destroyed,” Navalny told reporters outside the court.
The Kremlin has historically used courts to punish protesters and critics, and Russian officials have earned international derision for these prosecutions, particularly that of the all-women punk protest band Pussy Riot.