Russian court jails Kremlin critic Navalny for 30 days

Olga ROTENBERG
Navalny was detained on Saturday evening outside his home in Moscow. His charges pertain to an unsanctioned protest he organised on January 28, violating Russia's strict laws which forbid any public event without city hall's authorisation

A Moscow court jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny for 30 days Monday over an unauthorised protest earlier this year, just days before another planned political rally.

Judge Alexei Stekliyev of the Tverskoy District Court in the capital ruled that Navalny had repeatedly violated Russian law with a call for a mass protest in January, an AFP correspondent in the courtroom reported.

Navalny was detained on Saturday evening outside his home in Moscow.

The charges were based on a protest he organised on January 28, violating Russia's strict laws which forbid any public event without city hall's authorisation.

In the courtroom Monday, Navalny's defence lawyer asked the judge to pause the proceedings for two days in order to read through the case, which contains 219 pages but Stekliev allowed only 30 minutes.

Speaking before the decision, the 42-year-old Kremlin critic said the case was an indictment of Russia's political system.

"Over the past four years... Moscow has not once approved our request to rally where we requested," Navalny said.

He added that the only reason he was being held on the same charge for the third time is to keep him from holding a protest on September 9 against the government's retirement age hike.

September 9 is also an election day in several Russian regions, including Moscow, where voters will cast ballots for city mayor.

In the capital, a lack of genuine opposition candidates on the ballot paper means incumbent Vladimir Putin ally Sergei Sobyanin is all but guaranteed to win.

Moscow city hall said Monday that Navalny's request to hold the rally on election day had been rejected, warning that measures will be taken against organisers and participants.

But Navalny's lawyer Ivan Zhanov told journalists the rally will be "held no matter what," despite Navalny's absence.

- Party failure -

Navalny has called some of the biggest protests in Russia in recent years. His anti-corruption rhetoric is especially popular among younger people who follow his online channels and blogs.

The opposition politician has criticised the planned pension age hike -- a first in nearly 90 years -- that has led to a rare outburst of public anger in Putin's Russia.

Navalny has also applied to register a political party called "Russia of the Future" but his bid was rejected, his website said Monday.

This is the third unsuccessful attempt by Navalny to register an opposition party over six years.

In a video posted online Monday, Navalny lashed out at Putin.

"This hypocrite constantly complains that we don't offer any constructive agenda and only keep protesting," Navalny said in the video. "What else do we have to do? There is no media, we have no parties, and the political system is frozen."

"The only thing left to do is mass rallies. All other ways to influence the authorities were cut by Putin."

Navalny, who was barred from taking part in Russia's presidential election in March, served a month in prison in June after organising demonstrations ahead of Putin's fourth inauguration in May.

He was freed from prison the same day the World Cup started in Russia.

The Yale-educated lawyer has faced a string of charges since he became the leading opposition figure, campaigning against Putin's rule at mass demonstrations in 2011 and 2012.