MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's most prominent opposition activist, Alexei Navalny, was fined $1,000 by a Moscow court on Tuesday for his role in a weekend protest under a new law that President Vladimir Putin's opponents say is aimed at smothering dissent.
The anti-graft blogger was among three of Putin's foes briefly detained at a protest in central Moscow on Saturday following the first meeting a new opposition body to which Navalny was elected head in an online vote.
Kremlin critics in Russia and abroad say the detentions and fines are part of a wider clampdown on activist who led a wave of street protests against Putin's nearly 13-year rule.
"These constant detentions are connected to one quite obvious thing - they are trying to prevent mass actions by prosecuting people constantly," Navalny told reporters outside the courtroom.
The Moscow judge found Navalny guilty of organizing an unsanctioned protest that violated public order - a charge he denied.
He dismissed the charges as "absurd", telling the court he was arrested after walking away from his post at a one-man picket, was holding no banners and had shouted no slogans.
"Backing me: witnesses, video tapes, a report by (Russian human rights ombudsman Vladimir) Lukin and common sense. Against: an absurd police report. The Report won," Navalny tweeted after the verdict.
The law under which Navalny was fined 30,000 roubles (about $1,000) was among a raft of new legislation passed since Putin started his new term that civil rights activists have denounce as draconian.
(Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Angus MacSwan)