On Saturday, February 20, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s demand to be released from prison was rejected by a Moscow appeals court. According to Politico, Navalny has been jailed in Moscow since returning to Russia in January based on the supposition that he violated his parole agreement related to a previous conviction of embezzlement.
As per Al Jazeera, Navalny’s alleged parole violation occurred earlier this year when he was undergoing treatment in Germany for poisoning by a military-grade nerve agent. The court maintains that Navalny purposely remained in Germany longer than was necessary for his recovery, thereby violating his parole.
As Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most outspoken and staunch critic, Navalny has not only blamed the Kremlin for poisoning him, but also for framing him in in legal trouble.
Following what many outside observers called a politically-motivated trial, Navalny was convicted of embezzlement in 2014. He has repeatedly claimed that the charge was fabricated, gaining the support of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) who declared the embezzlement trial “unlawful.”
The AP reports that the ECHR, along with many western countries, has also condemned the Russian court’s decision to deny Navalny’s appeal and to commute his prison sentence by only two months, bringing his serving time down to two and a half years. These criticisms both directly target the political nature of Navalny’s imprisonment and the Russian legal system’s negligence in providing Navalny inadequate protection in light of his recent poisoning.
While the denial of his appeal and a recent Russian constitutional amendment that cements the supremacy of domestic law over international law almost guarantee Navalny’s imprisonment for the entire length of his sentence, he remained steadfast in criticizing Putin during his appeal. When giving his testimony, he cited the Bible, strengthening the righteousness of his fight against Putin and his corrupted administration. The Guardian also recorded Navalny insinuating that Putin was Russia’s Voldemort, a Harry Potter reference; quoting the popular animated television show, Rick and Morty, he further said, “To live is to risk it all, otherwise you’re just an inert chunk of randomly assembled molecules drifting wherever the universe blows you.”
Since the announcement of the decision denying his appeal for release, Navalny appeared before another Russian court on charges of slander. The court subsequently convicted Navalny of the charges, fining him approximately $9,500. The charges involved his declaration that a 95-year-old WWII veteran was a “traitor” for appearing in what Navalny claimed was a pro-Putin propaganda video.
Navalny’s questionable treatment by the Russian judicial system has not gone unnoticed by the Russian people. Mass demonstrations took place accross Russia following Navalny’s arrest and his court trial. Russian authorities subsequently arrested over 11,000 demonstrators across the country in a nationwide crack-down on mass protests. Most arrested demonstrators received fines or jail sentences of up to 15 days. Reuters explains that in response, Navalny’s political allies, most of whom are either under house arrest or abroad, have called for a moratorium on mass protests for their supporters until the spring.
Navalny will soon be transported from where he is currently being incarcerated in the Moscow area to a prison camp farther east. Despite the present circumstances, Navalny remains undeterred in his opposition; the Guardian quotes him saying, “I am always giving my last words. When this trial ends, there will be another, [and] I’ll give my last words there too.” Despite his lengthy prison sentence, Navalny is not ready to cease his opposition to what he has called the unjust governing of his home country.