Russian justice system sentences Alexei Navalny, Vladimir Putin's political rival, to 19 years in prison

He was found guilty of allegedly inciting extremism, creating an illegal NGO and rehabilitating Nazism.

Alexei Navalny is perhaps Vladimir Putin's most famous political rival. Founder and leader of the Russia of the Future party for many years, the oppositionist, already serving an 11-year sentence, was sentenced to another 19 years in prison. The alleged crimes he was convicted of include: inciting and financing extremism, creating an illegal NGO, rehabilitating Nazism and inciting children to dangerous acts.

The political leader happens to be the most vocal dissident Putin has had in recent years. Aged 47, he suffered an assassination attempt in 2020 when he was poisoned with Novichok. Months after emerging from a coma, he returned to Russia and was detained by the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) when he set foot in the airport. The event triggered a wave of proposals that spread throughout the country. He was sentenced in 2021 to 11 years in prison and was categorized as a "terrorist" and "extremist."

This new sentence of 19 years was handed down behind closed doors at the IK-6 penal colony in Melekhovo, located about 145 miles (235 kilometers) from Moscow. As reported by The Guardian, Navalny appeared thin, aged and defiant as he heard the verdict of Judge Andrey Suvorov. "For a new, free and rich country to be born, it must have parents. Those who want it, who wait for it and who are ready to make sacrifices for its birth," the politician declared early in the trial.

His sentence comes with additional bad news, including a special and very strict prison regime. He will only be able to see his family and receive packages once a year, will not be able to talk to his fellow inmates and will only be able to walk occasionally within an enclosed courtyard. He must move around inside the prison with his head bowed.

"I fully understand that, like many political prisoners, I am sitting in a life sentence. Where life is measured by the term of my life or the term of life of this regime," Navalny expressed through a letter he delivered to his lawyers.

He further assured that Putin's goal is "to intimidate you (his supporters), not me." "You are the ones they want to force to surrender Russia without a fight to a gang of traitors, thieves and scoundrels who have seized power," he said in closing.