On Tuesday, a court in Moscow convicted Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny and his brother, Oleg, of defrauding the Russian arm of a French cosmetics company. Both brothers were sentenced to three and a half years in jail, though Alexey Navalny's sentence was suspended, and each was fined 500,000 rubles ($8,800) and told to pay 4 million rubles ($77,000) in damages. Both men deny any wrongdoing.
Unlike his brother, Oleg Navalny has never participated in the opposition movement. "This is the most disgusting and vile of all possible verdicts," Alexey Navalny said after leaving the courthouse. "The government isn't just trying to jail its political opponents — we're used to it; we're aware that they're doing it — but this time they're destroying and torturing the families of the people who oppose them." Oleg Navalny, a former postal service executive, has two small children.
The hearing, scheduled for Jan. 15, had been abruptly moved to Dec. 30, the start of Russia's 11-day winter holiday; Judge Elena Korobchenko, at Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky District Court, didn't explain the switch or the difference in sentences. Independent analysts said both the date change and decision to keep Alexey under house arrest were designed to defuse protests, while jailing Oleg was a move to intimidate and demoralize the opposition to President Vladimir Putin. A court order could send Alexey Navalny to prison at any time.
Update: Alexey Navalny was taken into custody again later Tuesday for participating in an anti-government protest that Russia says was unauthorized. The caption reads: "Navalny was arrested at the Ritz Carlton." --Peter Weber