The Kremlin’s main opponent, Alexeï Navalny, who has been hit by multiple court cases, will go on trial twice this Saturday, cases that could result in him being sent to a forced labor camp for nearly three years.
The ECHR demands the release of Navalny
These two hearings will take place as the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) asked this week for the release of the 44-year-old anti-corruption activist who poses a risk to the life of this opponent who survived in extreme form to the last year of poisoning. This decision was immediately rejected by Moscow, which, despite the threat of new sanctions, had already pushed aside demands by the European Union.
Alexei Navalny returned to Russia in January after recovering, accusing the Kremlin of being poisoned. He was arrested on arrival at the airport and sentenced to two years and eight months in prison on February 2.
The court changed a 2014 suspended sentence for fraud to a fixed sentence for violating its judicial review. It is the appeal of that judgment that needs to be examined Saturday morning. Moscow courthouse spokeswoman Ouliana Solopova said prison services could transfer the opponent to one of Russia’s many labor camps if the February 2 decision is confirmed.
In addition, Alexeï Navalny will appear before another judge on Saturday afternoon in a trial for “defamation” of a World War II veteran. In this case, the prosecution requested a fine of 950,000 rubles (around 10,600 euros) and also requested that the opponent’s suspension be converted into a prison.
As a legacy of the Soviet Union, most prison sentences in Russia are served in prison camps that are sometimes far from everything. The work of the inmates, mostly in sewing or furniture workshops, is mandatory there. The conditions of detention are also regularly denounced by human rights defenders.
Alexeï Navalny, whose arrest in January led to three days of demonstrations suppressed by the police, denounces the newly established judicial process and conducted the previous court hearings. According to him, the Kremlin plans to throw him in prison to silence him after not killing him by poisoning last summer. Moscow rejects these allegations.
The European Union and the United States have stepped up calls for Alexeï Navalny’s release, while the adversary’s collaborators have urged the West to sanction high-ranking Russian officials and nearby Vladimir Putin.
Moscow sees it as “meddling” in its affairs and has threatened the Europeans with reprisals.
Alexei Navalny and his supporters plan to organize further protests against power in the spring and summer before the parliamentary elections.