Vladimir Kara-Murza has rejected the charges against him as political and likened the judicial proceedings against him to the show trials during the rule of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.
A court in Moscow on Monday convicted a top Kremlin foe on charges of treason and denigrating the Russian military and sentenced him to 25 years in prison.
Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr, a prominent opposition activist who twice survived poisonings he blamed on the Kremlin, has been behind bars since his arrest a year ago. He has rejected the charges against him as political and likened the judicial proceedings against him to the show trials during the rule of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.
The charges against Kara-Murza stem from his 15 March speech to the Arizona House of Representatives in which he denounced Russia’s military action in Ukraine. Investigators added the treason charges while he was in custody.
Russia adopted a law criminalizing spreading “false information” about its military shortly after it sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Authorities have used the law to stifle criticism of what the Kremlin calls “a special military operation.”
International community sparks condemnation
The Moscow court's verdict drew outrage from government and international officials as well as activists alike. Belarusian political activist Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya tweeted her disdain at the decision, calling Kara-Murza "a brave & intelligent voice of reason opposing Putin's inhuman regime".
The US ambassador to Russia Lynn Tracy called for his immediate release. Speaking to reporters alongside the British and Canadian ambassadors to Russia, Lynn said, "the criminalisation of criticism of government action is a sign of weakness, not strength."
For its part, the British government summoned the Russian ambassador to hammer home its condemnation of the verdict. Kara-Murza holds also British citizenship and studied at Cambridge University.
In a statement, British foreign secretary James Cleverly said: “Russia’s lack of commitment to protecting fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression, is alarming".
“We continue to urge Russia to adhere to its international obligations including Vladimir Kara-Murza’s entitlement to proper healthcare.”
Elsewhere, the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk also called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to release Kara-Murza.