UPDATE 2-Russia opens new criminal case against Kremlin critic Navalny, threatens more jail time
* New investigation opened on Alexei Navalny and his allies
* Navalny could see his prison term extended
* Navalny’s allies ridicule the accusations (Redesigns with details of the investigation, reaction, details)
By Andrew Osborn and Polina Devitt
MOSCOW, Sept.28 (Reuters) – Russia on Tuesday stepped up its campaign against jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny by opening a new criminal case against President Putin’s fiercest domestic critic that could allow authorities to sentence him to another decade in prison.
In a West-condemned case, Navalny, 45, is already serving two and a half years in prison for parole violations which he says were fabricated to thwart his political ambitions.
His allies have had their homes searched, their freedom of movement restricted, or fled abroad after a court in June ruled their activities were extremist and designed to fuel social unrest.
The Kremlin and its followers have since said they will maintain and, in some cases, step up their harsh approach to internal and external critics and organizations they see as a threat to Russia’s stability.
The new case, details of which have been published on the website of the Russian Commission of Inquiry, which is investigating major crimes, named Navalny as suspected of having founded and led an extremist group.
Such a crime is punishable by up to ten years in prison.
The statement said some of Navalny’s main allies were suspected in the same case and that other associates were suspected of having participated in the group’s extremist activities.
The statement called the activities of Navalny and his allies in recent years criminal.
“The extremist group’s illegal activities were aimed at discrediting the state authorities and their policies, destabilizing the situation in the regions, creating a climate of protest among the population and trying to form an opinion among the public on the issue. need for a violent change of power, (and) organize and organize protest actions that degenerate into mass riots, “the statement said.
He accused Navalny’s allies, many of whom now operate from abroad, of continuing their suspected illegal activities after their group was banned as an extremist.
Lyubov Sobol, an ally of Navalny named in the statement, said on Twitter that the charges against her and the others seemed absurd.
“The crimes of my colleagues: participated in elections, investigated corruption of senior officials and attended peaceful protests and wrote on Twitter …” she wrote sarcastically.
She said the new case showed how much Putin feared Navalny, an allegation the Kremlin has already dismissed.
Navalny was flown to Germany last year for medical treatment after being poisoned in Siberia with what Western experts have concluded to be the military nerve agent Novichok.
Navalny accused Putin of ordering the attack, which the Kremlin denied.
Moscow has rejected the allegations and the conclusions of the experts – which have sparked a new wave of sanctions against Russia – and accused the West of a smear campaign against it. (Reporting by Andrew Osborn and Polina Devitt Additional reporting by Olzhas Asezov Editing by Catherine Evans and Raissa Kasolowsky)