A Russian court banned opposition politician Alexei Navalny’s national political organization on the grounds that he is “extremist”, in a historic step for Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on political dissent.
The long-awaited court decision effectively liquidates Navalny’s non-violent opposition movement and bars his allies from running for office for years as the Kremlin seeks to erase the imprisoned opposition leader from Russian political life.
Legal advisers representing the Navalny movement said they believed the court was trying to speed up a hearing and issue a verdict on Wednesday, but that its “numerous appeals” would delay it.
The verdict was issued shortly before 11 p.m. local time. “The Anti-Corruption Foundation has been recognized by a court decision as an extremist organization,” the group first reported the verdict on Twitter.
The court hearing has coincided with a fierce crackdown on other opposition politicians and even lawyers who have defended the growing wave of political prisoners in court. Pavlov has been charged with revealing secrets from the pre-trial investigation into a treason case against a former journalist and faces a short prison term and disqualification.
“Putin has rewritten the constitution himself, every article of the constitution on civil rights has started to be read as a joke, and yet we are the extremists,” said Georgy Alburov, researcher at the Navalny Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK ). one of the organizations labeled as extremists on Wednesday.
The ruling will make both Navalny’s regional headquarters and its anti-corruption foundation toxic, threatening its political activists and researchers with long prison terms if they continue their work, and could also target financial donors and even journalists who name the organizations. de Navalny in the media.
The trial marks a change in attitude in the Kremlin, which for years had hounded Navalny and his allies but resisted a widespread ban by street opposition. But since Navalny was the target of a novichok poisoning last year, the Kremlin has grown more aggressive, overseeing Navalny’s incarceration on embezzlement charges since 2014 and the arrest of thousands of protesters in cities across Russia who came out. to demand their release.
“He has gone beyond criticizing the government,” a prosecutor said at the closed-door hearing according to a partial transcript released by Pavlov. “You are taking people to the streets to change the government by force.” The government has refused to admit journalists to the hearings because the prosecution’s case contains secret evidence.
Navalny has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison and faces a new criminal trial, so his sentence is likely to be extended if the Kremlin considers that the opposition leader remains a threat. He appeared by video at a court hearing Tuesday after being returned to his prison colony after a 24-day hunger strike.
Putin also signed a new law this week that will prevent founders, leaders and funders of extremist groups from running for political office for years, polluting much of Russia’s non-systemic democratic opposition in the run-up to Russia’s parliamentary elections. anus.
The verdict comes days before Putin meets with US President Joe Biden in Geneva and is now likely to be high on the agenda for that meeting, which was expected to focus on security issues.
Navalny’s daughter lamented the “rapid decline of democracy” in Russia on Tuesday as she accepted an award for “moral courage” for her father from the Geneva-based UN Watch group.
The traditional appointees on Russia’s list of extremist organizations are terrorist and hate groups, including the Islamic State and various neo-Nazi groups. Others include non-violent religious groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, which have faced surveillance, raids and arrests for holding religious gatherings.
Yet it is a novel for a nonviolent political organization that has sought to consolidate Russia’s fractured opposition, hold mass protests, and expose government corruption through ingenious investigations that have infuriated many of Putin’s powerful friends and allies.
Navalny, who began his political career as a LiveJournal blogger, has painstakingly built his political endeavors into a guerrilla newsroom, an investigative unit, a regional headquarters that helped coordinate protests, and even a campaign strategy center that sought channel the votes towards the most popular. promising opponents of the ruling party, United Russia.
Russia has tried to present Navalny as a tool of Western intelligence agencies. The Moscow prosecutor announced in April that he would seek to liquidate Navalny’s organization for “creating the conditions to change the foundations of the constitutional order, including through the scenario of a ‘color revolution'”. He had already suspended the activities of their organizations and added them to a financial terrorism watch list that effectively froze their bank accounts.
Many of Navalny’s top aides, including Leonid Volkov and FBK chief Ivan Zhdanov, have fled Russia for Europe. Regional activists have begun to act, with administrators at its more than three dozen headquarters deleting social media pages of personal information ahead of an expected crackdown in regions across the country.