“FToday it is three years since Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition politician, returned to Russia. He was arbitrarily detained, prosecuted and convicted upon his return from Germany, where he was receiving medical treatment following an assassination attempt in Russia.”recalls the head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, in a statement.
“Since then, the EU has closely monitored developments in his case. The EU has repeatedly condemned, in the strongest possible terms, all politically motivated court decisions against Navalny for actions that constitute legitimate political and anti-corruption activities,” it adds.
Regretting that, after three years, Navalny is still serving “politically motivated sentences of more than 30 years” and suffering “serious violations of his rights”, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy reiterates “the his call for immediate and unconditional release”.
Furthermore, the head of diplomacy for the community bloc regrets that “three lawyers who defended Navalny were added to the Russian list of ‘terrorists and extremists’ based on politically motivated accusations.”
Josep Borrell’s position comes after, on Tuesday, the Russian authorities accused Olga Mikhailova, Alexei Navalny’s lawyer, in absentia, of participating in an extremist group, the same accusations they had already made against three other lawyers of the opposition leader stuck.
“For 16 years, you defended a person” accused of embezzlement, fraud, defamation and “recently [torna-se] an extremist, which means that you yourself are an extremist,” the lawyer, who is outside Russia, wrote on her Facebook account.
Three other lawyers – Vadim Kobzev, Igor Sergunin and Alexei Liptser – were arrested in October 2023, also accused of participating in extremist groups and, by court order, will remain in prison until March 13, at least, while the investigation takes place.
At the time of the arrests in October, Mikhailova was on vacation outside the country and decided not to return to Russia, as she said today: “It didn’t make sense to go back to prison.”
Now, the lawyer and her daughter live in a country, the name of which she did not reveal, “without a home and with many problems”.
Navalny himself was convicted of extremism last year and sentenced to 19 years in prison, with the structures he created in Russia – the Foundation for Combating Corruption and a wide network of regional offices – being considered, in 2021, extremist.
According to Navalny’s allies, the authorities accused the lawyers of using their status to pass letters from the politician to his team, thus serving as intermediaries.
The politician’s team considers that accusing the lawyers is a maneuver to further isolate Navalny, detained since January 2021 after returning to Moscow from a trip to Germany, where he recovered from poisoning with novichok (a Soviet-era neurotoxic agent) that attributed to the Kremlin (Russian Presidency).
Since then, he has been sentenced to three prison sentences, which were rejected by the politician, who says they were motivated by political reasons.
Navalny has been in isolation for alleged minor infractions and was recently transferred to a “special regime” in a remote town above the Arctic Circle – the highest level of security for prisoners in Russia – increasing his isolation.
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