Russian court upholds 15-day sentence for prominent opposition leader Alexei Navalny

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MOSCOW — An appeals court in Moscow on Friday upheld a 15-day sentence for prominent Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The Moscow City Court ruled that the Feb. 19 verdict by a district court, which sentenced Navalny to 15 days in custody, should stand. The court then found Navalny guilty of violating the law when he campaigned on the subway for an unauthorized "anti-crisis" march on March 1.

While upholding the verdict, the court ruled that the 5 1/5 hours Navalny spent in police custody after he was detained on the subway should be counted as part of his sentence.

Navalny denied the accusations of breaking the law and argued they were intended to prevent him from organizing the demonstration amid a severe economic downturn in Russia caused by low oil prices and Western sanctions.

"I call on everyone to come to the "Spring March" and struggle for the future of our country," he said.

Navalny, the driving force behind the massive 2011-2012 protests in Moscow, has campaigned to organize anti-government protests in several Russian cities in March.

Navalny was convicted in late December of fraud and given a 3 1/2 -year suspended sentence, and was ordered to remain under house arrest until his appeals were exhausted. He has repeatedly violated his house arrest since then.

Navalny's brother was sent to prison under the verdict, which many see as a vendetta by the Kremlin.

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