Russian Court Rejects Navalny’s Arrest Appeal

A Russian court has ordered opposition leader Alexei Navalny to remain in jail, rejecting his appeal for release as authorities detained several of his associates following massive anti-Kremlin street protests in scores of Russian cities last weekend.
 
Navalny was arrested January 17 when he returned from Germany and sentenced to 30 days in jail for parole violations he denies committing. He spent five months in Germany recovering from nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Russian government. Russian authorities have denied the allegations.
 
The opposition leader, who could spend years in jail, condemned the criminal proceedings against him as a government campaign to intimidate Kremlin opponents.
 
“You won’t succeed in scaring tens of millions of people who have been robbed by that government,” Navalny told the court Thursday via a video link from jail.
 
Navalny’s attorneys have rejected the charges of parole violations, arguing that he was unable to fully comply with his probation terms because he was convalescing in Germany. His defense also maintained that due process was repeatedly violated during his arrest.
 
Late Wednesday, Navalny’s brother, Oleg, and Lyubov Sobol, a lawyer at Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), were arrested and told they would be detained for two days, when a court is expected to decide on their pretrial restrictions as part of a criminal investigation into alleged violations of coronavirus containment measures during last weekend’s protests.FILE – People gather in Pushkin Square during a protest against the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow, Russia, Jan. 23, 2021.The arrests — widely viewed as part of an effort to head off another wave of protests scheduled for Sunday — come after authorities conducted more than a dozen searches of apartments and offices of Navalny’s family as supporters. Other Navalny allies rounded up include Alliance of Doctors member Dr. Anastasia Vasilyeva and Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot, a punk rock and performance art group.
 
“Law enforcement agencies are doing their job,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Thursday in a conference call with reporters. “There were numerous violations of Russian laws, and law enforcement agencies are at work.”
 
The Moscow Region Court’s rejection of Navalny’s appeal against his arrest came after tens of thousands of people took to the streets in over 100 Russian cities last weekend demanding his release. Nearly 4,000 people were reportedly detained, and some were fined while others received jail terms.
 
The demonstrations also prompted Russian authorities to demand Thursday that social media companies block calls for more protests.FILE – Riot police detain a demonstrator with a bloodied face during a protest against the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, in Pushkin square, Moscow, Russia, Jan. 23, 2021.“The state doesn’t want the social networks to become a platform for promoting such illegal actions,” Peskov said.
 
Western countries have called on Russia to release Navalny, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s highest-profile critic.
 
Newly-confirmed U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed concern about Russia’s treatment of Navalny.
 
“Across the board, as the president has said, we’re reviewing all of these actions that are a deep concern to us whether it is the treatment of Mr. Navalny and particularly the apparent use of a chemical weapon in an attempt to assassinate him,” Blinken said at his first news conference in Washington on Wednesday.
 
Navalny fell into a coma while on a domestic flight from Siberia to Moscow in August. He was transferred two days later to a Berlin hospital. Tests conducted by laboratories in Germany, France, Sweden and at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons concluded that Navalny was exposed to Novichok, a potentially deadly nerve agent developed in the former Soviet Union.
 

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