“Do not be afraid, take to the streets”

Russian opponent Alexei Navalny escorted by police after a hearing in Khimki, near Moscow, on January 18.

” I do not understand what is happening. I was taken out of my cell a minute ago to see my lawyers, and in fact it’s a court hearing… ” Back in Russia, Alexeï Navalny has returned to the routine of his political struggle: a face-to-face meeting with justice transformed into a weapon against his person and ready to break free from procedural standards.

The political opponent was arrested on his return from Germany on Sunday January 17, five months after falling into a coma following poisoning in Novichok. Taken for “Checks”, he spent his first night on Russian soil in a police station in the city of Khimki, next to Sheremetyevo airport, near Moscow, where his plane had been diverted to avoid the crowd of his supporters who had come to welcome him at another airport.

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Monday, justice gave a legal character to this imprisonment by condemning Alexeï Navalny to remain in detention during a period of thirty days. This decision was rendered within the confines of the police station, a completely new practice and of dubious legality: the judge decided to hold a hearing there, rather than having Mr. Navalny brought to court. His lawyers were warned a minute before the start of the session and they had not been able to see their client before it began.

“I have often seen justice ridiculed, but never to such an extent, commented Alexeï Navalny, registering on own phone. Grandpa in his bunker [le président russe, Vladimir Poutine] is so afraid of everything that he simply tore up the code of criminal procedure and threw it in the trash. “

Arbitrate between two risks

The fate of Alexei Navalny should actually be fixed before thirty days. A new hearing is set for January 29, during which the reprieve to which he was sentenced in the context of the Yves Rocher affair, in 2014, could be revoked. The European Court of Human Rights had condemned Russia in this case, deeming it politically motivated and judging that Alexeï and Oleg Navalny, his brother sentenced to three and a half years in prison, had been deprived of the right to a fair trial.

No matter: by spending several months of convalescence in Berlin, the opponent violated the terms of his judicial review, which could justify sending him to prison for several years.

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Other cases, old and new, pose the same threat, including a criminal investigation for “Large-scale scam”, a crime punishable by ten years in prison, opened at the end of December 2020 by the investigation committee. At the same time, the courts have not opened an investigation into the poisoning of the country’s first opponent.

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