A Moscow court on Tuesday granted a prosecutors’ request for Kremlin critic, Alexei Navalny to serve prison time for violating the terms of his parole.
Judge Natalya Repnikova ordered a suspended three-and-a-half-year sentence Navalny received in 2014 to be changed to time in a penal colony.
Repnikova said time Navalny previously spent under house arrest in the sentence would count as time served, and, according to his team, that would mean at least two-and-a-half years in prison now.
Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Fund (FBK) immediately called for supporters to protest in central Moscow.
“We’re going to the centre of Moscow right now,” it wrote on Twitter, urging supporters to join them.
The 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner was detained on January 17 when he returned to Moscow from Germany, where he had spent months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning in August that he blames on President Vladimir Putin.
He was charged with violating the terms of his parole under the 2014 suspended sentence on fraud charges because he did not check in with the prison service while in Germany.
The European Court of Human Rights in 2017 condemned the ruling in the fraud case as “arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable”.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Navalny said the case was meant “to intimidate a huge number of people”.
“They are putting one person behind bars to scare millions,” he said.
Navalny called President Vladimir Putin a “poisoner”, blaming him for the attack.
“Using the FSB [Federal Security Service of Russia], Putin attempted to commit murder. I’m not the only one – many know this already and many others will. And this is driving the thieving little man in the bunker crazy.
“No matter how much he tries to look like a geopolitician, he took offence at me because he will go down in history as a prisoner,” he said.
He has been in detention since returning to Russia last month. He had been treated in Germany for a near-fatal nerve agent attack against him in August.
He has already served a year under house arrest which will be deducted from the total.
His supporters called for an immediate protest and tried to gather outside court but the whole area was overrun with riot police. More than 300 have been detained, according to monitors.
His lawyer said they would appeal against the ruling.
Strong international reaction to the sentence came quickly, with the Council of Europe – the continent’s leading human rights body – saying the judgement “defied all credibility”.
UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, described the ruling as “perverse”, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was deeply concerned by it.
Additional reporting from AFP and BBC