Italy has deplored the three-and-a-half-year jail term that a Moscow court handed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Tuesday for breaching the terms of a suspended sentence for embezzlement.
"The news of Alexei Navalny's long prison sentence was learned of with dismay; a conviction originating from a previous trial that was already defined as "arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable" by the European Court of Human Rights," the foreign ministry stated.
Navalny's detention and trial his return to Russia in mid-January after being poisoned with a chemical agent last August "confirms the trend towards the suppression of fundamental rights in the Russian Federation," the statement went on.
"Italy remains a consistent supporter of dialogue and cooperation between the European Union and Russia, but expresses strong concern at these developments, which go against the basic principles of democracy and the rule of law."
In court, Navalny called Russia's president Vladimir Putin a "poisoner", blaming him for the nerve agent attack that almost killed him.
His lawyer said they would appeal against the ruling. Over 300 Navalny supporters who tried to protest the sentence were arrested, according to monitors.
Strong international reaction to the ruling also came swifty from Europe's leading rights body The Council of Europe, from the UK and Germany and US secretary of state Antony Blinken, who demanded Navalny's immediate and unconditional release.
Navalny's return to Russia on 17 January after medical treatment in Germany triggered mass protests in support of him and thousands of arrests.
Navalny has been accused of breaking the terms of his 2014 suspended sentence for embezzlement that required him to report regularly to Russian police.
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