The sentencing of opposition leaders Aleksei Navalny and Leonid Volkov to 20 days in administrative detention is yet further evidence of the Russian authorities’ relentless stranglehold on civil society, said Amnesty International. The organization is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of both men.
“The arrest of Aleksei Navalny and Leonid Volkov comes as no surprise. It is a blatant attempt by the Russian authorities to suppress and suffocate any dissenting voices and intimidate people trying to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” said Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.
“Peaceful protest is a right, not a crime nor a privilege which the authorities can bestow on a whim to people in Russia. The activists’ imprisonment embodies the everyday harassment of civil society across the country, including many of Navalny’s supporters. Over the last few months, scores of activists across Russia have been subjected to arbitrary detention, over-the-top fines, beatings and intimidation.”
Aleksei Navalny and Leonid Volkov were found guilty of “repeated violation of the established procedure of organizing or holding meetings, rallies, demonstrations, marches or picketing.” They were tried on the same day in two different courts in Moscow. Both were sentenced to 20 days of administrative detention.
“This is the third time this year that Aleksei Navalny has been thrown behind bars solely for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. He has committed no crime, yet will have spent two months in prison simply for challenging the repressive Russian laws on public gatherings,” said Denis Krivosheev.
Aleksei Navalny, an anti-corruption campaigner and aspiring presidential candidate, was detained by police on 29 September in the lobby of his apartment building. He was on his way to the train station to go to Nizhnii Novgorod (Central Russia) where he was going to take part in a rally.
While he was released in the evening of the same day, he was charged under Article 20.2.8 of the Russian Code of Administrative Violations (“repeated violation of the established procedure of organizing or holding meetings, rallies, demonstrations, marches or picketing”). His chief of campaigns, Leonid Volkov, was briefly detained on the same day in Nizhnii Novgorod and accused of the same offence.
The rally had been agreed with the local authorities, in accordance with the overly restrictive Russian law which requires the authorities’ express prior permission. However, earlier that week, the Nizhnii Novgorod city administration withdrew its permission for the rally, a move that Navalny described as unlawful. The rally went ahead. According to eyewitnesses, around dozen peaceful demonstrators were detained by police in Nizhny Novgorod.
Navalny and Volkov’s detention comes days before another rally he was organizing in St Petersburg, on Saturday 7 October, the birthday of President Vladimir Putin. The local authorities have not yet replied to the organisers request to hold the rally.
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