A top opposition activist in Russia has been found guilty of treason on Monday for criticizing Moscow’s war in Ukraine and was given a 25-year prison sentence as part of the Kremlin’s crackdown on critics of the invasion.
Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr., who has twice survived poisonings he blamed on Russian authorities, rejected the charges as punishment for standing up to President Vladimir Putin and compared the trial to the show trials of the Soviet era.
Human rights organizations and Western governments criticized the verdict and demanded his immediate release, with Amnesty International declaring him a prisoner of conscience.
The charges against Kara-Murza, a dual Russian-British citizen, were based on a speech he made to the Arizona House of Representatives denouncing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, along with other speeches abroad.
Following the invasion, Russia adopted a law criminalizing spreading “false information” about its military, which has been used to stifle criticism of the conflict and any public criticism of the war.
The ongoing repression campaign is unprecedented since the Soviet era, criminalizing independent reporting on the conflict and public criticism of the war.
Last month, a Russian court sentenced a father to two years in prison for social media posts critical of the war and sent his 13-year-old daughter to an orphanage after she drew an antiwar sketch at school.
Days later, Russia’s security service arrested an American journalist for The Wall Street Journal on espionage charges. Amnesty International denounced Kara-Murza’s sentence as a “chilling example of the systematic repression of civil society,” and Memorial, one of Russia’s oldest and most prominent human rights organizations, named him a political prisoner.
Western governments, including the UK, the US, and Germany, condemned the conviction and called for his release, with the US State Department renewing its call for the release of Kara-Murza and more than 400 other political prisoners in Russia.
Kara-Murza’s health has deteriorated in custody, and he has developed polyneuropathy in both feet, according to his lawyers.
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