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Navalny was imprisoned for political reasons

November 15, 2018

In a blow to the Kremlin, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that several arrests of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny were politically motivated. Moscow was ordered to pay over €50,000 in damages.

Navalny speaks to journalists at the European Court of Human Rights
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/J.-F. Badias

Navalny: European court ruling

Russian authorities violated the rights of politician Alexei Navalny with politically motivated arrests, the highest chamber of the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Thursday.

Read more: Alexei Navalny's European court date puts pressure on Kremlin

Two of the seven times he was arrested between 2012 and 2014 authorities had aimed to suppress "political pluralism" in the country. In six out of seven cases, the government violated Navalny's right to a fair trial, according to the ruling.

"I'm very pleased with this ruling. This is genuine justice," Navalny told reporters in Strasbourg. "This ruling is very important not only for me but also for many people in Russia who face similar arrests on a daily basis."

Moscow has been ordered to pay  €50,000 ($56,690) to the politician in damages and another €12,653 in court expenses. The latest ruling comes after both sides appealed an initial verdict last year.

Trouble from Russia

Thursday's ruling is binding for Russia, which is a member of the Council of Europe, and is not open to appeal. However, Navalny said he believes that the Russian government would try to ignore the ruling and assign political motives to the court.

Read more: Russian opposition leader Navalny detained upon release from jail

Talking to DW, the 42-year-old politician also commented on Russia's repeated threats that Moscow would leave the Council of Europe. Despite friction with the court, a Russian exit from the body remains unlikely, Navalny said.

"For the Russian authorities it is extremely important to stay part of at least some European bodies," he added.

Move to 'bring opposition under control'

Navalny is a notable critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has faced numerous arrests and several corruption trials since becoming involved in the 2011-2013 anti-Putin protests. The Russian president is known to never refer to Navalny by name in public.

The number of arrests and days Navalny spent behind bars rose sharply in recent years. The opposition leader spent a total of 140 days in jail between January 2017 and October 2018.

In the Thursday ruling, the court found "converging contextual evidence" that the authorities were "becoming increasingly severe" towards Navalny between 2012 and 2014, and that his claim of being targeted "appeared coherent in the context of a general move to bring the opposition under control."

Russia's representatives have argued that arresting Navalny was legally justified and that Navalny's unauthorized political rallies were posing a security risk.

dj/sms (AP, Reuters, Interfax)