Russian court rules that opp leader Navalny must stay in jail







Opposition leader Alexei Navalny appears on a screen set up at a hall of the Moscow Regional Court via a video link from Moscow's penal detention centre Number 1 (known as Matrosskaya Tishina) during a court hearing of an appeal against his arrest, in Krasnogorsk outside Moscow on January 28, 2021.
(ALEXANDER NEMENOV / AFP)

MOSCOW – A Russian court on Thursday ordered opposition leader Alexei Navalny to be kept in jail after rejecting an appeal against his detention, a decision that Navalny called predictable.

Navalny was remanded in custody for 30 days on Jan 18 after flying back to Russia for the first time since being poisoned  in August.

Opposiiton leader Alexei Navalny was remanded in custody for 30 days on Jan 18 after flying back to Russia for the first time since being poisoned  in August

A court at the time ordered him detained for alleged parole violations, which he denied. With various legal cases pending against him, Navalny, 44, could face years in jail. The West has called on Russia to release him and tens of thousands of Russians protested on Saturday.

Addressing the presiding judge by video link from jail before the ruling, Navalny demanded to be released and railed against what he said were absurd allegations.

“We’ll never allow … these people to seize and steal our country. Yes, brute force is on your side now. You can…put me in handcuffs. (But) that will not continue forever,” he said.

His lawyers said Navalny would appeal against the ruling to keep him in custody, the Interfax news agency reported.

After the ruling was handed down, Navalny said to the judge: “Everything was clear to me before the start of the court hearing, thank you.”

Navalny’s allies have called for new protests this weekend to demand his release. 

Police had said the protests were illegal and OVD-Info, a monitoring group, said officers had detained close to 4,000 people. 

Police in Moscow also detained Navalny's brother Oleg and searched the homes of the opposition leader’s associates and other properties linked to him, his allies said.

Oleg Navalny was released from prison in 2018 after serving three-and-a-half years for an embezzlement conviction that critics say was designed to put pressure on his brother Alexei and smother dissent

Ivan Zhdanov, director of Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, tweeted that Oleg Navalny had been in his brother’s apartment as it was being searched.

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Oleg Navalny was released from prison in 2018 after serving three-and-a-half years for an embezzlement conviction that critics say was designed to put pressure on his brother Alexei and smother dissent. Alexei Navalny was given a suspended sentence in the same case.

Zhdanov said police appeared to be conducting the searches as part of an investigation into calls to hold protests, which breached social distancing restrictions imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They started breaking down the door,” he tweeted.

Zhdanov later said Oleg Navalny would remain in police custody for 48 hours on suspicion of violating sanitary and epidemiological regulations.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement earlier on Wednesday it had opened criminal cases against some of the participants in last week’s protests. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the searches.

Zhdanov later added that police had detained Ilya Pakhomov, an aide to Alexei Navalny, outside the opposition politician’s apartment.

In this Aug 21, 2020 photo, Oleg Navalny, the brother of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands in front of Omsk Emergency Hospital No 1 where the opposition leader was admitted after he fell ill in what his spokeswoman said was a suspected poisoning, in Omsk. (DIMITAR DILKOFF / AFP)

Zhdanov also posted video taken at another apartment showing Yulia Navalnaya, Alexei Navalny’s wife, telling police to wait for her lawyer to arrive as they banged loudly at the door.

Navalnaya’s lawyer, Veronika Polyakova, was allowed inside the apartment by police after standing outside the door for several hours.

“It used to be that touching the family was against the code of honour,” Polyakova tweeted. “Now there is neither code, nor honour.”

Police also searched the home of Lyubov Sobol, an ally of Alexei Navalny who was detained at last week’s protests, and the offices of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, Alexei Navalny’s allies said. Photos on social media showed around 20 masked men waiting to gain entry.

READ MORE: Russia dismisses outcry over detention of Navalny

Police took Sobol in for questioning as a witness but she was later ordered to remain in police custody for 48 hours, also for allegedly violating sanitary regulations, Navalny’s team said.

Alexei Navalny has not yet returned to his home since being poisoned and almost killed in Russia last summer. Last week, he was arrested at the airport as he returned to Moscow from Germany, where was treated and recovered.