18 January 2021
Statement by Memorial Human Rights Centre
Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre
On 17 January Aleksei Navalny was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. Along with the new criminal prosecutions, this is the latest repressive measure in a politically motivated campaign against the opposition politician.
The Russian authorities’ use of criminal prosecutions against political opponents is an outrageous, and intolerable practice, yet one that is all too familiar. However, even against this background, Sunday’s detention of Navalny is striking in its cynicism and disregard for even the appearance of legality.
Navalny was detained at the behest of the Federal Penitentiary Service, allegedly because he had violated the terms of probation imposed in December 2014 following his conviction in the Yves Rocher trial. This sentence is unlawful, not only in our opinion, but also in the opinion of the European Court of Human Rights which in 2017 found it to be unlawful and unfounded and in 2019 found Navalny’s house arrest in this case to be politically motivated. The period of probation imposed by the Zamoskvoretsky court, even taking into account the one-year extension on spurious grounds, expired on 30 December 2020.
In late 2020 Navalny underwent treatment and rehabilitation in Germany after an attempt on his life with a military grade chemical agent. Navalny himself and independent investigative groups have presented compelling evidence, that has in no way been disproved, of direct Russian State involvement in the assassination attempt. Navalny was taken to Germany for treatment with the consent of the Russian authorities. These circumstances must have been known to the Federal Penitentiary Service. The demand that Navalny should appear in person on the penultimate day of the probation period, a demand issued the day before that date, has the appearance of an unworthy trick. The grounds for such a demand – reference to a publication in the scientific medical journal The Lancet that does not even mention Navalny by name – are simply absurd. The detention on an unlawful and groundless pretext of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, who hid from no one and publicly announced his return after the assassination attempt, is a politically motivated unlawful act of retribution.
Memorial Human Rights Centre considers Aleksei Navalny a political prisoner and demands his immediate and unconditional release.
Translated by Simon Cosgrove