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Navalny denounces 'absurd' trial, as new charges emerge

April 26, 2023

Imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said that he was facing extremism allegations in a new court hearing — charges that could land him up to 35 years in prison.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is seen on a TV screen, as he appears in a video link provided by the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service in a courtroom of the Basmanny Court in Moscow, Russia
Image: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Photo/picture alliance

A Moscow court held a hearing on Wednesday to determine the fate of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is facing a new trial on extremism and terrorism charges.

"They have brought absurd charges against me, according to which I am facing up to 35 years," said Navalny via video link during the hearing at at Moscow's Basmanny District Court.

He added that he could be judged on a separate military tribunal over terrorism charges, which could land him a life sentence in prison.

The judge closed the session minutes after it opened, saying that the case involved sensitive information and that it should be held behind closed doors.

Navalny said that closing the process was an attempt to prevent him from getting acquainted with the case, and "to make sure that no one finds out about it."

Russian officials link Navalny to blogger's bombing

The hearing ended with the judge giving Navalny ten days to study the 196 files in his case. No date for the trial has been set yet.

The new charges against Navalny retroactively criminalize all the activities of his anti-corruption foundation since its creation in 2011, according to Navalny's ally Leonid Volkov.

Navalny's associate, Ivan Zhdanov, said Wednesday that investigators were trying to revise the charges by linking them to the bombing of Vladlen Tatarsky, a military blogger and supporter of Russia's military campaign in Ukraine. 

According to Russian officials, the attack was planned by agents from Navalny's foundation.

Alexei Navalny's case

More than ten years ago, Navalny established the Anti-Corruption Foundation — a non-profit that published reports into alleged corruption among top Russian officials.

In August 2020, Navalny was the target of a suspected assassination with Novichok, a Soviet-designed nerve agent. He was arrested upon his return to Russia after recovering in a hospital in Berlin.

Since his arrest, Navalny was added to an official terrorist list and his organizations have been banned in Russia as "extremists."

Navalny initially received a 2.5-year prison sentence for a parole violation, but last year he was sentenced to 9 years in prison for fraud and contempt of court.

Alexei Navalny sentenced to 9 more years

The opposition leader is now serving a combined 11.5-year sentence at a maximum-security prison east of Moscow. 

vh/jcg (AP, AFP, Reuters)