Russian courtroom rejects Navalny’s attraction; allies arrested | Russia Information
A Russian court has dismissed opposition leader Alexey Navalny’s appeal against his arrest, while authorities arrested several of his allies and warned social media companies.
Thursday’s developments came after tens of thousands swarmed the streets in more than 100 Russian cities last weekend, demanding his release.
Navalny spoke to court via videolink from prison condemning the criminal case against him as part of the government’s efforts to intimidate the opposition.
“You will not succeed in scaring tens of millions of people who have been robbed by this government,” he said.
His lawyers said Navalny would appeal the verdict to keep him in custody, Interfax news agency reported.
After the verdict, Navalny said to the judge, “Everything was clear to me before the trial began, thank you.”
The 44-year-old Navalny, the best known critic of the government of President Vladimir Putin, was arrested on January 17 after his return from Germany. There he recovered for five months from nerve agent poisoning, which he accuses the Kremlin. The Russian authorities have denied the allegations.
Navalny was detained for 30 days at the request of the Russian Prison Service. He accused him of breaking parole on a 2014 money laundering conviction, which he dismissed as politically motivated.
He is now also being charged in two separate criminal cases.
The Moscow District Court on Thursday denied his appeal against the arrest.
Al Jazeeras Aleksandra Godfroid, reporting from Moscow, said Navalny took the opportunity to speak at Thursday’s hearing to deliver a “political speech” designed to raise the morale of his supporters.
“Basically, he said he wasn’t surprised at the lack of laws,” she said. “He also said that the whole idea is behind it [process] is to frighten him, his followers, and anyone who objects. “
Navalny’s brother was arrested
During the trial, Navalny’s defense argued that he was in rehabilitation in Germany and therefore could not register with the authorities during the probation period. His lawyers also denied his arrest, claiming that due process had been violated repeatedly.
The imprisonment of Navalny’s brother Oleg, his ally Lyubov Sobol, Dr. Anastasia Vasilyeva of the Navalny-backed Medical Alliance and Maria Alyokhina of the punk collective Pussy Riot comes as authorities try to contain another wave of protests for Sunday.
All four were held for 48 hours during a criminal investigation into alleged coronavirus rule violations during the weekend protests.
The nightly arrests of Navalny’s allies came after more than a dozen searches of the homes and offices of his family, staff and supporters in connection with the ongoing investigation into coronavirus restriction violations during the weekend protests. These locations included Navalny’s apartment, where police arrested his brother, and a rented apartment where Navalny’s wife, Yulia, lived.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the searches and detentions are a legitimate part of police efforts to investigate alleged violations during Saturday’s rallies.
“Law enforcement agencies are doing their job,” Peskov said on a conference call with reporters. “There have been numerous violations of Russian law, and law enforcement agencies are at work.”
Russian prosecutors on Thursday also warned Facebook, Google, Twitter, TikTok and Russian social networks, calling for calls to be blocked for further protests.
“The state does not want social networks to become a platform for promoting such illegal actions,” said Peskov.
When asked whether their refusal to remove such content could lead the Russian authorities to block them, Peskov replied that it was up to the relevant government agencies to look into a response.
“All advantages and disadvantages are weighed and, if necessary, the legal measures are taken,” he said.
Earlier this week, Russian state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube and two Russian social networks would be penalized for failing to prevent minors from joining the protests on Saturday.
Al Jazeeras Godfroid said the Kremlin was moving quickly to quell further protests against Navalny’s detention and warned that such demonstrations were illegal.
“The authorities are not sitting idle, they have already warned that January 31st is not a date to attend these rallies,” she said.
“They have also started to warn social [media] Network and urge them to remove any content calling for people to join the protests on Sunday. “
Also on Thursday, the Russian Investigation Committee said it had launched a criminal investigation into Navalny’s top strategist Leonid Volkov and accused him of encouraging minors to participate in unauthorized rallies. Volkov, who is currently staying abroad, denied the charges.
In a challenge to Putin two days after Navalny’s arrest, his organization released an extensive video report of a palatial coastal area allegedly built for the president. It has been viewed more than 98 million times, adding to dissatisfaction.
Demonstrations took place last Saturday in more than 100 cities across the country calling for Navalny to be released. This was a strong sign of growing anger towards the Kremlin. Nearly 4,000 people were reportedly arrested during these protests and some were given fines and prison terms.
Navalny fell into a coma on August 20 on a domestic flight from Siberia to Moscow. Two days later he was transferred from a hospital in Siberia to a Berlin hospital.
Laboratories in Germany, France and Sweden, as well as tests by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, revealed that he had been exposed to the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok.
The Russian authorities have refused to open a full criminal investigation because there is no evidence that Navalny was poisoned.
The arrest of Navalny and the tough police actions during the protests have sparked widespread criticism from the West and are demanding his release.
Some analysts said Navalny will try to make the most of the apparent surge in anti-Kremlin sentiment caused by his incarceration.
“What Alexey Navalny wants to do now is prepare for a situation where he can … become a real contender for power,” said Alexander Baunov, senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank.
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