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Russian opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza sentenced to 25 years in prison

by Kate Tsurkan April 17, 2023 3:31 PM 4 min read
Russian opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza sits on a bench inside a defendants' cage during a hearing at the Basmanny court in Moscow on October 10, 2022. (Photo: NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP via Getty Images)
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Russian journalist and opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for condemning Russia's all-out war in Ukraine, the BBC reported on April 17.

The judge presiding over the trial said that Kara-Murza will be sent to a "strict regime correctional colony" to serve his jail sentence and fined 400,000 roubles ($5,000), the BBC wrote.

Kara-Murza was arrested in Russia on April 11, 2022, and charged with "treason," "spreading false information" on the Russian military, and belonging to an "undesirable" foreign organization.

“Today’s outrageously harsh court decision clearly demonstrates yet again the political misuse of judiciary in order to pressure activists, human rights defenders and any voices opposing Russia’s illegitimate war of aggression against Ukraine,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.

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Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs condemned the "harsh and unjust sentence" against Kara-Murza and announced that he had imposed sanctions against 10 Russian individuals "complicit in this sham case," calling on the European Union to impose additional sanctions.

Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, called the April 17 verdict a "travesty of justice," adding that "Russian authorities should immediately vacate the verdict and unconditionally free him."

Human Rights Watch also said the charges against Kara-Murza were "unfounded and constitute blatant persecution for his entirely peaceful exercise of freedom of expression."

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk called Kara-Murza's 25-year sentence a "blow to the rule of law and civic space," adding that "No one should be deprived of their liberty for exercising their human rights. I call on authorities to release him without delay."

Evgenia Kara-Murza, the wife of the Russian opposition leader, wrote, "A quarter of a century is an 'A+' for your courage, consistency, and honesty in your years-long work. I am infinitely proud of you, my love, and I’m always by your side."

In a statement to the court last week, Kara-Murza said, "Not only do I not repent of any of this, I'm proud of it. I'm proud of the fact that Boris Nemtsov brought me into politics and I hope he isn't ashamed of me. I stand by every word I've ever uttered and by every word this court accuses me of saying," as quoted by the Dutch-owned independent Russian media outlet the Moscow Times.

Boris Nemtsov, Kara-Murza's former colleague, was an opposition politician shot dead by the Kremlin in 2015.

Kara-Murza, who is also a British citizen, went on to liken his trial to that of the show trials in the 1930s during the Stalinist purges and that he only regretted the failure on his part of convincing people of the threat Russian President Vladimir Putin posed.

In 2015 and 2017, Kara-Murza claimed that he was poisoned by Russian authorities in retaliation for his efforts to persuade Western nations to impose more economic sanctions on Russia.

Kara-Murza penned an op-ed for the Washington Post in 2021, recounting his experience of confronting the Russian intelligence officers allegedly involved in the poisoning, after an investigation conducted by Bellingcat, the Insider, and Der Spiegel had identified them.

According to Kara-Murza, doctors informed his wife both times that he had a five percent chance to survive the poisonings. The journalistic investigation found that Russian intelligence officers had been following Kara-Murza before the alleged poisonings took place.

None of the intelligence officers would speak to Kara-Murza, but thanks to the investigation, he knew their faces and names.

"They have ordinary faces, the same kind that I see every day on the streets of Moscow. What do these men discuss at the family dinner table? How many people they’ve poisoned today?" Kara-Murza wrote.

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