A Moscow court Saturday rejected opposition leader Alexey Navalny’s appeal of a three-year prison sentence for allegedly violating the parole terms of a 2014 suspended sentence on embezzlement charges.Navalny, the Kremlin’s most prominent critic, maintains that the case against him is politically motivated. He asked the judge to order his release, referring to a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that the case was baseless and ordering Russia to free him. Moscow dismissed that request as unlawful.The appeal court judge, Dmitry Balashov, however, decided to count the six weeks of Navalny’s house arrest as time served. Navalny will serve the rest of the sentence, just over 2½ years, in a penal colony.Later Saturday, Navalny is also scheduled to appear in court in a defamation case, for allegedly slandering a World War II veteran. If convicted, he would face a fine or community service.Navalny was arrested Jan. 17 upon his return to Moscow from Germany following a lengthy recuperation from a near-lethal poisoning attack he and Western nations have blamed on the government of President Vladimir Putin.Russian authorities have denied any involvement in the incident, and have refused to investigate the assassination attempt, citing a lack of evidence.Navalny’s detention has prompted thousands of his supporters to take to the streets across Russia to demand his immediate release. Russian police have arrested several thousand protesters.The United States and its European allies have condemned Navalny’s detention and the aggressive Russian response against demonstrators.   

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