New Trial Against Kremlin Critic Navalny

news 19-Jun-2023 Europe

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is facing trial once again. Among the charges leveled against him this time is the founding and funding of an extremist organization, which could result in a sentence of up to 30 years in prison.

Navalny will be tried not in a regular courtroom, but directly at the Melekhovo penal colony, for minimizing fascism and advocating for extremism, but particularly for the founding and funding of an extremist organization. This designation was given not only to his Anti-Corruption Foundation in 2021, but also to the political staff that Navalny had established throughout Russia.

The prosecution has compiled over 700 pages of material, with 196 volumes to support what from Navalny's supporters' point of view was already clear, that he will be found guilty once again. "In the end, the judge will come out and read the verdict: 30 years in a penal colony under harsh conditions," said Ivan Zhdanov, former head of the Anti-Corruption Foundation who is currently living in exile and is wanted by the Russian authorities, in a YouTube video.

Navalny's staff members also face imprisonment

Last week's ruling demonstrated that these fears were not unfounded. Lilia Tsvanysheva, who had been running Navalny's staff in Ufa for four years, was sentenced to seven and a half years in a penal colony for founding or participating in an extremist organization, even though she had stopped working when it became clear that the political staff would be classified as extremist.

This is a clearly politically motivated sentence for Tsvanysheva, which will not stop her from continuing to fight against corruption and lawlessness. Like Navalny, she used her trial to make a public statement, calling on people to stand up for a free and peaceful Russia despite the pressure: "Believe in yourself. Work for positive change. Write letters. I need you. Other political prisoners need you."

Solidarity actions are dangerous

Expressing open support for political prisoners requires courage in Russia. Nonetheless, there were solidarity actions for Alexei Navalny and others in over 20 Russian cities in early June to mark his birthday. Most lasted only a few minutes before security forces intervened. The human rights portal OVD-Info recorded 126 arrests.

Alexei Navalny himself has been behind bars since January 2021, upon his return from Germany, where he had been recovering from the serious effects of poisoning. He has been repeatedly sentenced, with a total sentence of nine years.

Frequent solitary confinement

His time in the penal colony under harsh conditions has visibly taken a toll on him. Despite maintaining an unbroken front on social media, where his team posts his messages, the 47-year-old looks emaciated and sickly, likely due to being locked up in a small punishment cell for months almost uninterrupted, as he testified in February while in court: "They told me: You won't get out of the punishment cell at all. Three days in the punishment

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