Russia jails former opposition mayor for calling for Navalny protests

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - A court in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg jailed its former mayor for nine days on Wednesday after finding him guilty of using social media to urge people to protest for the release of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Yevgeny Roizman, who served as mayor of Russia's fourth largest city from 2013 to 2018, was charged with organising an illegal rally after he urged his nearly 500,000 followers on Twitter to take to the streets.

"Organising (a protest) means one tweet and a retweet," Roizman wrote on Twitter, mocking the ruling. "This is what constitutes a call (to take to the streets)."

Roizman, who was also ordered to complete 30 hours of community service, is an outspoken critic of the authorities and sometimes denounces them on Twitter using expletives.

Authorities have stepped up their crackdown on opposition activists in the wake of protests calling for the release of Navalny, who was jailed in February on charges he said had been trumped up.

Police detained thousands at rallies across Russia in support of Navalny earlier this year after saying that the demonstrations were illegal and that those taking part could face charges.

Roizman, who has described himself as a friend of Navalny, resigned from his post in 2018 after authorities moved to scrap mayoral elections in the city of 1.5 million in the industrial belt of the Ural Mountains.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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