A 42-year-old Russian shopkeeper is serving a 25-year prison sentence for treason

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Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza gestures from inside a defendants’ cage at the Moscow City Court last July. The dual Russian and British citizen is serving a 25-year prison sentence on treason charges he says are politically motivated. (The Associated Press)

A lawyer for jailed Russian opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza found his health to be “relatively stable” after visiting him in a prison hospital where he had been held incommunicado for several days, the team said on Wednesday juridical of the dissident.

Kara-Murza, 42, a dual Russian and British citizen, is serving a 25-year prison sentence on treason charges he has dismissed as politically motivated. The charges against him stemmed from public comments that were harshly critical of the Kremlin.

His arrest in April 2022, weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, came as authorities stepped up their crackdown on dissent to levels not seen since Soviet times.

His lawyers tried to visit him last Thursday in the penal colony no. 6 in the Siberian city of Omsk, where he is serving his sentence, but was told he had been transferred to a prison hospital for an unspecified “examination,” according to him. wife, Evgenia Kara-Murza, and lawyer Vadim Prokhorov.

For several days afterward, they were denied access to the politician because of “fake excuses” from hospital staff, Prokhorov said in an online statement Tuesday.

On Wednesday, one of Kara-Murza’s lawyers was finally able to visit him, Prokhorov said in a new statement. His health is currently relatively stable, the lawyer said, adding that the exact reasons for the hospital examination are being clarified. Prokhorov did not provide further details.

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Evgenia Kara-Murza told CBC News Network that although her husband is alive, he is not necessarily out of danger.

“Every political prisoner in Russia today is risking their lives behind bars every day,” she said on Wednesday.

She said the media attention her husband’s case attracted was essential for his lawyers to be able to see him.

“I think international pressure … is what helped us get access,” said Evgenia Kara-Murza.

She and her husband’s lawyers have repeatedly sounded the alarm about his deteriorating health in prison. In 2015 and 2017, Kara-Murza suffered two near-fatal poisonings and developed polyneuropathy, a condition that dulls sensation in the limbs.

Prokhorov emphasized in his statement on Wednesday that polyneuropathy is a serious chronic illness that prevents Kara-Murza from serving her sentence in a correctional facility.

“Because I had the courage to tell the truth”

A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada told CBC News in an emailed statement that “Canada continues to deplore Russia for the guilty verdict of Mr. Kara-Murza and the rejection of his appeal.”

“Mr. Kara-Murza is a symbol of the courageous and principled defense of democratic values ​​and human rights. Russia’s attempts to silence people of conscience only make their voices louder.”

A lawyer for Kara-Murza, pictured at a hearing at Moscow’s Basmanny court in 2022, was recently granted access to him in a prison hospital. His wife says it probably wouldn’t have happened if his case hadn’t received international media attention. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images)

British and American officials on Wednesday reiterated calls for Kara-Murza’s immediate release and expressed concern that his lawyers have been denied access to him.

“Vladimir is being held in prison in deplorable conditions because he had the courage to tell the truth about the war in Ukraine,” British Foreign Secretary David Lammy said in a statement.

The US Embassy in Moscow also said in a statement to X that “speaking one’s truth and conscience is a right guaranteed by the Russian constitution, which unfortunately continues to be suppressed by the Kremlin’s continued and increasing repression of dissent.” .

“Kara-Murza is a hero, not a criminal,” the embassy said.

Asked by The Associated Press if the Kremlin had any plans to release ailing political prisoners like Kara-Murza, similar to what President Vladimir Putin’s ally Alexander Lukashenko recently did in neighboring Belarus, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday there was no such of plans “at this time. .”

Detained in solitary confinement

Kara-Murza is serving the heaviest sentence handed down to a Kremlin critic in modern Russia. He denounced the prosecution against him as punishment for standing up to Putin and likened the proceedings to show trials under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

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Russian journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza remains defiant after being sentenced to 25 years for treason, telling the court that one day “Russia will be free”. The Kremlin critic has already survived two suspected poisonings, but his family remains concerned about his health and what might be done to him in prison. 2:13

His wife said he continues to be held in solitary confinement, a common practice for jailed critics of the Kremlin and widely seen as intended to put extra pressure on them.

Kara-Murza rose to prominence as a journalist and wrote columns as a contributor to the Washington Post from his prison cell. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary earlier this year. He has been declared a political prisoner by the prominent Russian human rights group Memorial, and Western officials have repeatedly called for his release.

Moves to neutralize opposition and stifle criticism have intensified significantly since the start of the war in Ukraine, including the passage of a law that effectively criminalizes any public expression of the conflict that deviates from the Kremlin line.

The legislation, which bans “spreading false information” about the Russian military or “discrediting it”, has been used against opposition politicians, human rights activists and ordinary Russians critical of the Kremlin, with many receiving lengthy prison terms.

With files from CBC News and CBC News Network