Alexei Navalny returned home to Russia in January – only to fly straight into the arms of the police, as expected. He was arrested at the airport and sentenced on February 2 to 3.5 years in prison for violating the rules of a previous conditional sentence for embezzlement.
Prison authorities accused Navalny of failing to inform them – including while he was in a coma in Germany after he was found poisoned by the Soviet neurotoxin Novitjok.
– The whole world knew where I was. When I recovered, I bought a plane ticket and came home, Navalny said in court, describing the accusations that he tried to get away as ridiculous.
It requires justice
He described the justice system as illegal, in a country where tens of millions demand truth and justice.
“Sooner or later, they will understand,” Navalny was quoted by Reuters as saying.
The judge, who on Saturday rejected Navalny’s appeal, decided to take another six weeks of his sentence, in exchange for the time the regime critic was spending under house arrest. This means that he only has 2.5 years left to serve his sentence.
Navalny says the charges against him are politically motivated and an attempt to silence him. The arrest triggered the largest demonstrations critical of the government in several years and caused new tensions in Russia’s relations with the West, with several leaders demanding Navalny’s immediate release.
Saturday’s outcome could worsen relationships.
Expected to resume
Since his return, the 44-year-old has been incarcerated and is now in the notorious Matroskaya Tishina prison in Moscow. There, inmates are monitored constantly and everywhere, even on the toilet. If the verdict comes, it risks putting him in what is called an ordinary penal colony, according to the human rights expert that T.
Navalny appeared in court on Saturday to file his appeal. He has the ECHR at his side – it is calling on Russia to release Navalny because it believes there may be a danger to his life in prison.
However, Russian Justice Minister Konstantin Chuichenko criticized the decision of the European Court of Justice, saying that the request could not be complied with as it had no basis in the country’s legislation.
Convicted of defamation
Later in the day, Navalny was also convicted in another case.
These were allegations of a defamation of a veteran featured in a Kremlin-friendly advertising video of Russian constitutional amendments – which prompted Navalny to speak of him as a “stain on the country” and a “traitor.”
The penalty was a fine of 850,000 rubles (just over 95,000 SEK).
In court, Navalny refused to apologize from the veterans, which he says was used for political gains for the Kremlin.
Alexei Navalny (born in 1976) was Russia’s most prominent opposition politician in 2010. Having become famous from the start as an anti-corruption activist, he has increasingly emerged as the main opposition leader against President Vladimir Putin’s regime.
Navalny was repeatedly arrested, convicted, and banned from running in the general election. Instead, he runs a movement that has a strategy of so-called smart voices. It aims to gather opposition-minded voters behind the candidates in the various elections who have the most chance to compete with ruling Russia.
He is a trained lawyer and since 2000 is married to Julia Navalnaga. They have two children, born in 2001 and 2008.
In August 2020, Navalny became acutely ill during a flight from Tomsk, Siberia. After being treated for a long time in a hospital in Germany, where it was found that he had been poisoned by the neurotoxin Novitjok, he returned to Russia on January 17, 2021. He was arrested directly at the airport.