Russia prosecutor seeks arrest for top opposition leader

MOSCOW - Russian prosecutors called for top opposition leader Alexei Navalny to be jailed on Friday after allegedly using the Internet in breach of his house arrest conditions during a trial seen as politically motivated by his supporters.

One of the most vocal critics of President Vladimir Putin, Navalny faces charges of stealing and laundering 27 million roubles (US$949,000, 570,000 euros) from French cosmetics company Yves Rocher. He has been under house arrest since February and banned from using the Internet.

During a closed-door hearing at a Moscow district court, a prosecutor called for Navalny to be moved to jail following a request from the prison service (FSIN), according to one of Navalny's aides.

"Prosecutors have evidence that Navalny has used the Internet," Nikolai Lyaskin told AFP from the court.

A spokesman for the prison service declined to comment.

Navalny's supporters fear the trial could result in a lengthy prison term, a move that would deliver a huge blow to Russia's already demoralised opposition.

Last July, the activist was convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to five years in jail in a separate case but walked free the following day in a surprise move that allowed him to run a high-profile campaign for Moscow mayor.

The 38-year-old anti-corruption blogger dismisses these and other charges against him as a Kremlin attempt to punish him for daring to oppose Putin.