Russian prosecutors Friday called for leading Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny to be sentenced to 10 years in prison for allegedly defrauding French cosmetics company Yves Rocher of more than half a million dollars.
Presenting their closing arguments in a Moscow district court the prosecutors called for the 38-year-old lawyer to be sent to a prison colony if convicted, Russian news agencies reported. Navalny, a charismatic anti-corruption campaigner who has rallied opposition to President Vladimir Putin, is accused together with his brother Oleg of embezzling nearly 27 million rubles (S$0.6 million) when Yves Rocher used their delivery service.
Navalny and his brother deny the charges, which they say are politically motivated. "You need to look for good in everything," Navalny wrote on Twitter. "At least it's easy to work out how old you'll be when you come out." He was due to address the court later Friday.
Navalny has spent almost all of the past year under house arrest, banned from communicating with anyone except close relatives, his defence team and law enforcement officials. The court on Friday extended his house arrest until February 15, in what is seen as a formality given that a ruling in the case is imminent.
Navalny has been targeted in a number of court cases. In 2013 he was sentenced to five years in jail in a separate embezzlement case but his sentence was later suspended. Yves Rocher's Russian arm said last month it had suffered no financial losses from using the Navalny brothers' company but that it was awaiting the court's findings to see if the delivery costs could have been avoided.
Navalny won respect as an anti-corruption blogger before becoming the star speaker at mass rallies against Putin's return to the Kremlin in 2012. He coined the slogan "Party of crooks and thieves." The charismatic campaigner went on to come second in Moscow's mayoral race last year against a Kremlin-backed incumbent.