Russian opposition leader Navalny sentenced to month for protests

Moscow (AFP) –


Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was on Tuesday sentenced to 30 days behind bars for organising protests ahead of President Vladimir Putin's fourth inauguration.

Judge Dmitry Gordeyev of Moscow's Tverskoi district court found Navalny guilty of arranging the "unauthorised protests".

The court heard testimony from one of the police officers who detained Navalny who said the group of 15 police had been authorised to use physical force.

The police officer said Navalny ignored megaphone warnings that the protest was illegal.

"I consider the detention was illegal, my rights were violated," Navalny said in court, arguing he had a constitutional right to hold a protest.

Navalny's lawyer Vadim Kobzev said the trial had "clearly political motives" as Putin begins a fourth Kremlin term.

"The authorities have started forming a government and now are striving by any means to deprive Navalny of freedom, to prevent him reacting to this process."

Navalny also faces a separate charge of disobeying police orders, with a verdict expected later in the day, but any sentence is expected to run concurrently to the month already given.

A verdict was expected from the Moscow court on Friday, but the case was adjourned for police witnesses to be called.

"What happens in court really has no relation to the judgement, the judgement probably already exists... they need to observe some formal steps but it has no relation to the result," Navalny told reporters following the adjournment.

The charismatic 41-year-old politician, who was barred from challenging Putin in March's presidential election, had called on Russians to stage rallies across the country on May 5 under the slogan "Not our Tsar".

Nearly 1,600 protesters were detained in 27 cities across Russia at the anti-Putin protests called "He's not our Tsar", according to OVD-Info, an independent monitor that tracks arrests.

Around one in 10 of those arrested were minors, according to the organisation.