Russian court orders Alexei Navalny's brother jailed in absentia
The ruling against Oleg Navalny comes one year after his brother Alexei was thrown in jail on old fraud charges Handout Press service of Tverskoy District Court of Moscow/AFP

Russia on Friday sentenced in absentia the brother of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny to one year in prison for violating terms of a suspended sentence, expanding a protracted opposition crackdown.

The ruling against Oleg Navalny comes one year after his brother was thrown in jail for two-and-a-half years on old fraud charges, the first of several controversial rulings that abruptly halted opposition politics in the country.

Alexei Navalny's political and anti-corruption organizations were declared extremist and shuttered. Most of his allies fled the country and those remaining face persecution.

On Friday, a district court in Moscow "replaced Oleg Navalny's suspended sentence... with jail time," his lawyer Nikos Paraskevov wrote on Twitter.

The 38-year-old was given the suspended sentence in August last year for violating coronavirus-restrictions.

He was accused of calling on Russians to attend an unsanctioned rally in January 2021 in support of his detained brother.

Alexei Navalny, 45, was swept up by police last January in a Moscow airport on his return to Russia from Germany where he had been recovering from a near-fatal poisoning attack.

Oleg Navalny was not present at the trial Friday.

According to court documents cited by news agencies, he travelled to Cyprus in September last year and did not return to Russia.

In January, Russia's prison authorities lodged a request to convert his sentence to jail time after he did not report for police inspections. Authorities issued an arrest warrant.

Yves Rocher fraud trial

The judge Friday granted the request and cited "aggravating circumstances", the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported, in a reference to Navalny's previous convictions.

In 2014, both Alexei and Oleg Navalny were convicted in a fraud trial, that their supporters said was politically motivated, related to their work for French cosmetics company Yves Rocher.

Oleg served three-and-a-half years in prison, while Alexei received a three-and-a-half-year suspended sentence.

Oleg Navalny served his term in a penal colony 300 kilometers (186 miles) from Moscow.

During his time in prison, he designed drawings for tattoos in support of political prisoners.

After returning to Russia last year, Alexei Navalny had his suspended sentence converted to jail time, which he is serving in a penal colony outside Moscow.

Last week, a makeshift court in Navalny's penal colony started hearings in a new trial against Vladimir Putin's main critic that could see his jail time extended by more than a decade.

Alexei Navalny is accused of stealing for personal use more than $4.7 million in donations that were given to his political organizations. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

In separate charges, Navalny also faces up to six months in prison if convicted of contempt of court.

© 2022 AFP