İrem UZUN -TDO- A Russian court has sentenced opposition politician Alexei Navalny to three and a half years in prison, defying condemnation abroad and public outcry at home to send one of the Kremlin’s most vocal critics to jail. Given that the opposition figure had previously spent 10 months under house arrest during a previous phase of the trial, the verdict means Navalny will now spend the next two years and eight months in a Russian penal colony.

Navalny was first detained two weeks ago upon his return to Moscow from Berlin, where he spent several months recovering from poisoning with nerve agent Novichok— an attack he blames on Russian security services and on Putin himself. The court on Tuesday ruled that while Navalny was in Germany, he violated probation terms from a 2014 case in which he had received a suspended sentence of three and a half years. That suspended sentence will now be replaced with a prison term. He will appeal the verdict, according to his lawyer Olga Mikhailova. Speaking outside the courthouse after the sentencing, she said Navalny took the verdict "bravely as usual."

The ruling came despite massive protests across Russia over the past two weekends and Western calls to free Navalny. “We reiterate our call for the Russian government to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Navalny, as well as the hundreds of other Russian citizens wrongfully detained in recent weeks for exercising their rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said after the ruling.

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