A Russian court on Monday opened a trial of a prominent Russian opposition activist on charges of treason and spreading “false information” about Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.
The charges against Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr. stem from his critical comments about the Kremlin in public speeches that he made in several western countries.
Kara-Murza pleaded innocent as the trial opened behind closed doors at the Moscow City Court. If convicted, he faces a possible prison sentence of up to 25 years.
His lawyer, Vadim Prokhorov, described the case as “unconditionally political.”
“In fact, this is prosecution for criticism,” he said, adding that the authorities have apparently tried to fast-track the trial.
Kara-Murza has been in jail since in April on charges of spreading “false information” about the Russian military stemming from his March 15 speech to the Arizona House of Representatives in which he denounced Russia’s military action in Ukraine. The investigators added the charges of treason against him while he was in custody.
Russia adopted a law criminalizing spreading “false information” about its military shortly after Russian troops rolled into Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. Authorities have used the law to stifle criticism of what the Kremlin calls “a special military operation.”
Kara-Murza, a journalist, was an associate of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was killed near the Kremlin in 2015. He himself survived poisonings in 2015 and 2017 that he blamed on the Kremlin. Russian officials have denied responsibility.