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Russian Journalist Jailed After Tweeting Joke About Alexei Navalny Protests

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Russian Journalist Jailed After Tweeting Joke About Alexei Navalny Protests

A Russian journalist has been jailed after he retweeted a joke about the Alexei Navalny protests.

Sergei Smirnov, who is the editor of independent outlet Mediazona, was sentenced to 25 days in prison after a judge ruled he had repeatedly violated protest legislation.

According to court documents, Mr Smirnov was detained by police after he shared a humorous message about the protests to his Twitter account, which compared the journalist to the lead of the punk group Tarakany (Cockroaches), Dmitry Spirin.

It also showed the time and date of the event, which reportedly led police to believe Mr Smirnov had a hand in organising a protest on 23 January.

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According to his publication, Mr Smirnov was not in attendance.

During the hearing, Mr Smirnov said: "I am a journalist, editor-in-chief, and it is not right for me to call for such gatherings.

"I usually do not go to them because I have less benefits than other journalists."

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Mr Smirnov was sentenced a day after Mr Navalny was handed a three-and-a-half-year prison term after allegedly violating the conditions of a suspended sentence he received in 2014 for money laundering.

Having already spent 11 months under house arrest, Mr Navalny's lawyer said his client will serve two years and eight months in prison.

The 44-year-old politician was arrested after recently returning to his homeland of Russia.

He had previously recovered from being poisoned with what some in the West have said was a military grade nerve agent that was put into his underpants by state security agents.

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The Kremlin has denied this, but Navalny was still detained last Sunday pending the outcome of four legal matters that he says are baseless.

Mr Smirnov was sentenced to 25 days in jail after retweeting a joke. Credit: Tverskoi District Court
Mr Smirnov was sentenced to 25 days in jail after retweeting a joke. Credit: Tverskoi District Court

The lawyer accused Vladimir Putin of attempted murder, something which Putin continues to deny, instead alleging that Mr Navalny is part of a US conspiracy to discredit him and his government.

In an Instagram message shared by his lawyer prior to his sentencing, Mr Navalny said that he wanted to make very clear that he is in good physical and mental health, and has no plans to kill himself.

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At the time, he said: "Just in case, I am announcing that I don't plan to either hang myself on a window grill or cut my veins or throat open with a sharpened spoon.

"I use the staircase very carefully. They measure my blood pressure every day and it's like a cosmonaut's so a sudden heart attack is ruled out. I know for a fact that there are many good people outside my prison and that help will come."

Alexei Navalny was sentenced to over three years in prison. Credit: PA
Alexei Navalny was sentenced to over three years in prison. Credit: PA

Speaking after the sentencing, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson demanded Mr Navalny be released.

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In a tweet, he said: "Alexey @Navalny's decision to return to Russia after being poisoned was a truly brave and selfless act. In contrast, today's ruling was pure cowardice and fails to meet the most basic standards of justice. Alexey Navalny must be released immediately [sic]."

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab branded it a 'perverse ruling'.

He said: "The UK calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Alexey Navalny and all of the peaceful protesters and journalists arrested over the last two weeks.

"Today's perverse ruling, targeting the victim of a poisoning rather than those responsible, shows Russia is failing to meet the most basic commitments expected of any responsible member of the international community."

Featured Image Credit: Tverskoi District Court

Topics: World News, Twitter, vladimir putin, Boris Johnson, Politics, Protest

Dominic Smithers
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