Russian Opposition Activist Faces Theft Charges

Posted July 31st, 2012 at 9:50 am (UTC-5)
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Russian authorities have charged prominent opposition activist Alexei Navalny with theft — the latest development as the Kremlin cracks down on dissent.

Investigators said in a statement Tuesday that is suspects Navalny played a part in a scheme to steal assets from a state timber company — totalling about $500,000 — while he was advising a local governor in 2009. He has been ordered to stay in Russia.

Navalny rejects the charges, telling reporters that the case is “really quite absurd and very strange” because officials have, as he put it, “completely changed the essence of the accusation, compared to what it was before.”

Authorities had originally accused Navalny of a different charge that carried a five-year prison term. Now, he faces 10 years in prison, if convicted.

Three members of a Russian female punk band arrived at a Moscow courthouse Tuesday for the second day of their trial on charges of hooliganism.

The three musicians – all in their 20s – performed a protest song and dance earlier this year against Russian leader Vladimir Putin inside a Moscow cathedral. They say their prosecution is aimed at spreading fear and silencing dissent.

The women face up to seven years in prison if they are convicted. Rights groups say the punishment is inappropriate.