Russian dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza attends a press statement prior to a faction meeting of the German Free Democratic Party (FDP) at the German parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, 08 September 2020. EFE/EPA/CLEMENS BILAN

Russian opposition activist jailed for 25 years for criticizing Ukraine war

Moscow, April 17 (EFE).- Russian opposition activist and journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Monday on charges relating to his criticism of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Kara-Murza, 41, was found guilty of high treason, having “knowingly disseminated false information” by accusing the Russian military of shelling residential areas, hospitals and schools in Ukraine. He was also found guilty of cooperating with an NGO deemed ‘undesirable’ by the Russian government.

A handout picture made available by Moscow City Court press service shows Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza in the cage during the verdict announcement in the Moscow City court in Moscow, Russia, 17 April 2023. EFE/EPA/MOSCOW CITY COURT PRESS-SERVICE/HANDOUT HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

“Kara-Murza is sentenced to 25 years in a high-security penitentiary (…) with one year and six months of personal restraint,” Judge Sergei Podoprigorov said in a statement quoted by Russia’s Interfax news agency.

The conviction of the prominent dissident sparked a media frenzy at the Moscow Urban Court where journalists and diplomats gathered, according to the Zona Media digital portal.

Last week, Kara-Murza told the court that he “regrets nothing” and that he “loves Russia”, according to his lawyer Maria Eismont.

Maria Eismont, lawyer of Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, speaks with the media before the verdict announcement at the Moscow City Court in Moscow, Russia, 17 April 2023. EFE/EPA/YURI KOCHETKOV

The court also fined him 400,000 ruble ($5,000) and barred him from practicing journalism for seven years.

Kara-Murza’s defense team has said that it will appeal the sentence.

The dissident has been a vocal critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin. During a March 2022 speech at the Arizona State House of Representatives in the US, he denounced the war in Ukraine and Moscow’s alleged bombing of civilians.

He later returned to Russia where he was arrested on April 11 accused of spreading false information about the army.

British Ambassador to Russia, Deborah Jane Bronnert (R), and U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Lynne Marie Tracy (L), speak to the media after the verdict announcement in the case of Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, in the Moscow City court in Moscow, Russia, 17 April 2023. EFE/EPA/YURI KOCHETKOV

Dozens of independent journalists called for Kara-Murza’s release last week saying that the dissident was being punished for his opposition to the war in Ukraine.

“We demand that the Russian authorities, law enforcement officers and judges return to the path of justice,” the letter said.

“Prosecute murderers and criminals rather than honest and responsible citizens who dare to think and speak the truth,” it added.

The journalists also denounced “Russia’s return to the practices of Stalinist terror against dissenters.”

Kara-Murza’s lawyers recently reported that he had been diagnosed in prison with polyneuropathy as a result of two poisonings he suffered in 2015 and 2017.

According to the Bellingcat investigative journalism collective, Kara-Murza had been tracked by the same Federal Security Service unit that later poisoned prominent opposition leader Alexei Navalny, currently serving eight years in prison.

In October 2022 he was lauded with the 2022 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize of the Council of Europe.EFE