News of the Day: 18 January 2021

The Guardian: A judge in Moscow has ordered that Alexei Navalny be held in custody for 30 days until a parole review that could imprison him for years, as Russia defied international pressure to release the Kremlin critic. Despite an international outcry led by US and European leaders and joined by activists including Edward Snowden, a Russian resident, the Kremlin has moved forward with the legal framework it would need to send one of Vladimir Putin’s most tenacious opponents to a penal colony by the end of the month. In response, Navalny has called for mass protests this Saturday. “There’s nothing these thieves in their bunkers fear more than people on the streets,” he said from a Moscow courtroom. The size of those protests could determine whether or not the Putin critic is freed or given a long prison sentence.

Caucasian Knot: The detention under a far-fetched pretext of Alexei Navalny, who was not hiding from anyone, is a political reprisal, and the authorities must immediately release the oppositionist, the Human Rights Centre (HRC) “Memorial” reports today. The “Caucasian Knot” has reported that on January 17, at passport control at the Sheremetyevo Airport, the police detained the oppositionist, who returned from Germany, for violating his suspended sentence.

Amnesty International: Reacting to news that prominent Russian opposition activist Aleksei Navalny has been remanded in custody for 30 days, following an unprecedented court “hearing” at the police station where he has been held since being arrested on arrival from Berlin, Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, said: “Today’s ‘hearing’ makes a mockery of ​​justice. Not only did the authorities shamelessly bring a judge to the police station to rule on Aleksei Navalny’s detention, but they also denied him access to his lawyer until the last possible moment. No independent media or member of the public was present to witness this farcical ‘hearing’, but to give the illusion of a transparent process, the ‘courtroom’ was packed with representatives of the pro-government press.”

Human Rights Watch: A judge in Moscow ruled today that Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition politician, be detained for 30 days pending a court hearing regarding his alleged breach of parole. If found guilty, he could face three-and-a-half years in prison. Authorities detained Navalny, an outspoken Putin critic, at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on January 17, where he arrived after a five-month recuperation in Germany following his near-lethal poisoning by a powerful nerve agent last August. Navalny’s flight was supposed to land at another airport, Vnukovo, but was diverted to Sheremetyevo in an apparent attempt by the authorities to prevent his supporters from greeting him on arrival. Navalny’s treatment has been a travesty of justice. Held overnight at Khimky police station on the outskirts of Moscow, he had no access to his lawyers for 15 hours, despite his and their repeated requests. The next day, instead of taking him to court for a hearing,  authorities brought the judge to the police station and informed Navalny’s lawyers of the hearing only a few minutes before it began.  

The Guardian: The United States and Europe have condemned the arrest of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who was detained when returning to Russia for the first time since a suspected poisoning by the FSB last year. Joe Biden’s incoming national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, called for Navalny’s immediate release, adding that the “perpetrators of the outrageous attack on his life must be held accountable”.

RFE/RL: The United States has added its condemnation to the detention of Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny as he arrived in Moscow from Germany. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a statement on January 17 also demanded the “immediate and unconditional release” of the Kremlin critic and said Navalny “is not the problem.”

The Moscow Times: Russian police detained prominent opposition leader Alexey Navalny Sunday on his arrival in Moscow from Germany, where he had been recovering from an attempted poisoning by the nerve agent Novichok. Navalny — who became a thorn in the Kremlin’s side through his campaigns against corruption and rigged elections in Russia — had been added to Russia’s national wanted persons list on Dec. 29 for parole violations related to a suspended sentence for fraud. Navalny maintains that the fraud case against him is politically motivated. Western experts concluded he was poisoned with Soviet-designed nerve toxin Novichok while Navalny alleges the attack was carried out on Putin’s orders. A recent investigation by the Bellingcat website indicated that Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) was behind his poisoning.

RFE/RL: On January 18, at Navalny’s hearing outside Moscow, the judge overseeing proceedings inside the police station holding the opposition leader returned after more than 45 minutes to deliver her ruling. She ordered Navalny jailed for 30 days, long past an expected February 2 hearing regarding his alleged parole violation. Lawyers say the outcome of that process could be a 3 1/2 -year prison sentence, and Navalny could be hit with additional charges that carry a sentence of up to 10 years. Before being led away, Navalny addressed Russians with a call for mass protests across the country on January 23 — throwing down the gauntlet both to a Kremlin reluctant to acknowledge his influence and to a population that he hopes will brave the winter cold, and a likely police crackdown, to demand his freedom. “Don’t be scared,” Navalny said in a video posted from the makeshift courtroom, sitting against the backdrop of a folded Russian flag. “Take to the streets.”

Human Rights Watch: A court in Moscow has sentenced Azat Miftakhov, a postgraduate math student and political activist, to six years in prison on highly controversial hooliganism charges. His conviction follows investigation and a trial marred by allegations of torture, and reliance on unfair “secret witnesses.” Miftakhov spent nearly two years in pretrial detention before yesterday’s verdict. He and two other political activists were accused of breaking a window and throwing a smoke bomb inside an empty Moscow office of United Russia, the country’s ruling party, in January 2018. The prosecution qualified the act as hooliganism aggravated by ‘political hatred.’ The other two defendants received suspended sentences of between two and four years.

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