Russian opposition activist Lyubov Sobol speaks to the media as she arrives at a court in Moscow on August 3.
A close associate of imprisoned Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny was sentenced to 18 months of parole-like limits on her freedom after a court in Moscow on August 3 found her guilty of publicly calling for the violation of sanitary and epidemiological safety precautions.
Lyubov Sobol was charged for allegedly calling on people to take part in unsanctioned rallies to support Navalny in January.
Sobol’s lawyer, Vladimir Voronin, condemned the ruling by the Preobrazhensky district court, calling it "written by investigators and affirmed by prosecutors."
He said Sobol would appeal, but such efforts to challenge politically charged cases are rarely successful in Russia.
Bailiffs removed Sobol from the courtroom while the judge was pronouncing the ruling after she started filming the process on her mobile phone.
According to the ruling, Sobol is barred from leaving her home between 10.00 p.m. and 6.00 a.m., attending public events, or leaving Moscow. Sobol was also ordered to report to a parole officer three times a month.
The case against Sobol was launched after she and several other Navalny associates and supporters were detained on the eve of unsanctioned mass rallies against Navalny’s latest arrest, in late January.
Sobol’s fellow detainees were: Aleksei’s brother, Oleg Navalny; municipal lawyers Dmitry Baranovsky, Konstantin Yankauskas, and Lyusya Shtein; the chief of the Physicians’ Alliance NGO, Anastasia Vasilyeva; a leading member of the Pussy Riot protest group, Maria Alyokhina; a coordinator of Navalny’s team in Moscow, Oleg Stepanov; Navalny spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh; and activist Nikolai Lyaskin.
Most of them were placed under house arrest. Charges against Yankauskas were later dropped.
Separately, in April, another Moscow court sentenced Sobol to a one-year suspended sentence of correctional labor after finding her guilty of trespassing in what she described as a decision designed to silence her.
The court said she illegally forced her way into the apartment of Federal Security Service (FSB) officer Konstantin Kudryavtsev in December, hours after Navalny had published a recording of what he said was a phone conversation with Kudryavtsev incriminating the FSB in his poisoning.
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During the 49-minute phone call, in which Navalny posed as an FSB official conducting an internal review, Kudryavtsev described the details of a state operation to poison the Kremlin critic with a nerve agent in August 2020.
Investigators claim Sobol pushed Kudryavtsev’s mother-in-law, who opened the door, and forcefully entered the apartment.
Sobol rejected the charge, saying she had not pushed Kudryavtsev’s mother-in-law but went to the apartment to meet Kudryavtsev to ask him about his conversation with Navalny.
Her team has described the case as political "revenge" for a lawyer who was unafraid of asking questions of an alleged assassin.
Navalny, 45, was arrested on January 17 after returning to Russia from Germany, where he was treated for a poisoning with a Novichok nerve agent that he says was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin has denied any role in the incident, which was the latest of a number of attacks on Navalny.
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More than 10,000 people were rounded up by police during nationwide rallies protesting Navalny’s arrest in more than 100 Russian towns and cities on January 23 and January 31.
On February 2, Navalny was found guilty of violating the terms of his suspended sentence relating to an embezzlement case that he has called politically motivated.
The court converted the sentence to 3 1/2 years in prison. Given credit for time already spent in detention, the court said the Kremlin critic would have to serve two years and eight months behind bars.
The court’s ruling caused new mass protests across the country that were also violently dispersed by police.
More than 1,400 people were detained by police in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other Russian cities on that day.
With reporting by TASS and Meduza