U.S. 'deeply concerned' by Russia's treatment of jailed opposition leader Navalny

FILE PHOTO: Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is seen on screens during a court hearing in Moscow

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States is deeply concerned by the Russian government's treatment of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Friday.

Russian prison authorities have interfered with Navalny's preparation of his defense and communication with his lawyer, Price said in a statement. He also said Navalny has been repeatedly placed in solitary confinement for minor alleged infractions.

Price said Navalny's treatment was "evidence of politically motivated harassment," and he reiterated U.S. calls for the opposition leader's immediate release.

Navalny, President Vladimir Putin's most vocal critic inside Russia, is serving an 11-1/2 year sentence after being found guilty of parole violations and fraud and contempt of court charges. He says all charges against him were fabricated as a pretext to smother dissent and thwart his political ambitions.

Navalny said on Thursday that prison authorities were stripping him of his attorney-client privilege, with all correspondence with his legal team now subject to three-day checks by prison staff.

Writing on Twitter, where Navalny has been posting via his lawyers, the Kremlin critic said prison administrators had refused to tell him the reasons for the move, and that he now communicates with his lawyers through "double plastic glass with bars inside".

(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Chris Gallagher)