Reacting to news that prominent Russian opposition activist Aleksei Navalny has been remanded in custody for 30 days, following an unprecedented court “hearing” at the police station where he has been held since being arrested on arrival from Berlin, Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, said:
“Today’s ‘hearing’ makes a mockery of justice. Not only did the authorities shamelessly bring a judge to the police station to rule on Aleksei Navalny’s detention, but they also denied him access to his lawyer until the last possible moment. No independent media or member of the public was present to witness this farcical ‘hearing’, but to give the illusion of a transparent process, the ‘courtroom’ was packed with representatives of the pro-government press.”
“These absurd theatrics expose the Russian authorities’ desperation to silence Aleksei Navalny. In anticipation of Navalny’s return to Russia, the authorities authorized a mass police presence at Vnukovo airport to intercept and arrest anyone merely coming to greet him; the closure of the airport; the surprise diversion of his flight to Sheremetyevo airport; the blockage of roads leading there; and finally, Navalny’s detention at border control.”
“This is the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters, not the behaviour of a government that respects human rights. The Russian authorities must immediately release Navalny and anyone detained in connection with his arrival. They are prisoners of conscience, guilty of nothing other than exercising their right to freedom of expression.”
On 18 January, the Khimki City Court remanded Aleksei Navalny to 30 days in custody pending trial for “multiple violations of the terms of his probation”, for his conviction in a previous politically motivated trial. The hearing took place inside a police station where Aleksei Navalny was placed after being detained in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport the previous evening.
Navalny’s lawyer was denied access to him until one minute before the hearing began in the police station. State-run TV channels were allowed into the police station whereas journalists from numerous independent outlets as well as Navalny’s supporters were kept outside in freezing -20°C degree conditions.