Free Alexei Navalny

Wall Street Journal

The conviction and five-year prison sentence given on Thursday to Alexei Navalny makes Russia’s opposition leader a political prisoner and dissident. As any number of history’s disgraced dictators could tell Kremlin strongman Vladimir Putin, jailing your opponents can bring unforeseen consequences. Think Mandela, Walesa, Havel and, at a not-so-distant time in Russia, Andrei Sakharov and Natan Sharansky.

As the Putin regime bears down on the democracy movement, such comparisons might seem fanciful. Mr. Navalny, who came to prominence as an anti-corruption activist, had no chance against the Russian state. He offended President Putin by labeling his ruling clique “the party of crooks and thieves,” a nickname that stuck, and by leading large protests starting in late 2011.

The Kremlin then revived a local investigation into the alleged theft in 2009 of about $500,000 in timber from the Kirov district, which had been dismissed for lack of evidence. Mr. Navalny briefly worked in the northeastern city as an adviser to a then reform-minded local governor. During the trial, the defense wasn’t allowed to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses or call its own. Nearly all cases in Russia end in convictions, certainly all political cases.

Other opposition figures face different criminal cases, but Mr. Navalny’s was the most prominent political trial since at least the 1970s. The sentence takes him out of the running for mayor of Moscow, an opposition bastion, in September elections. It will also keep the 37-year-old father of two small children in jail beyond the end of Mr. Putin’s third term as president in 2018.

The Kirov courtroom offered a contrast between Russia’s potential and its Putin-era reality. The judge, prosecutors and police behaved like apparatchiks following orders. Mr. Navalny is charismatic, youthful and at home in the modern world. As the long verdict was read, Mr. Navalny—ignoring the judge’s orders to kill his cellphone—tweeted encouraging, sometimes humorous messages. One was a still from a Batman movie.

In response, the EU said the case “raises serious questions as to the state of rule of law in Russia,” and White House spokesman Jay Carney said the U.S. “was deeply disappointed and concerned.” Yet at every previous lurch toward autocracy in Russia, such statements were immediately followed by a return to business as usual with Mr. Putin.

History offers an alternative. In the Brezhnev era, the U.S. sanctioned Moscow to force better treatment of Soviet Jews. The 2012 Magnitsky Act lets the U.S. ban Russian human-rights abusers from travel or banking in America. The blacklist needs to be expanded. Europe and Canada have for too long dragged their feet on passing their versions of Magnitsky. Western leaders can raise Mr. Navalny’s case at every opportunity with the Kremlin leader. Russia doesn’t belong in the G-8 as long Mr. Putin represses all opposition.

Before going to prison, Mr. Navalny tweeted his Russian supporters. “Alright. Don’t get bored here without me. And most important—don’t get lazy. The toad”—his latest shorthand for the Putin regime—”won’t on its own let go of the oil pipeline,” the source of its wealth and power. It must be pushed. Some help from the U.S. and Europe wouldn’t hurt. hairy girls займ на карту https://zp-pdl.com/online-payday-loans-cash-advances.php www.zp-pdl.com срочный займ на карту

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