Conviction of Navalny: The Latest Human Rights Outrage Under Putin Regime | Freedom House

Conviction of Navalny: The Latest Human Rights Outrage Under Putin Regime

Washington

Freedom House strongly condemns the conviction of Russian corruption fighter and opposition figure, Alexey Navalny, in a trial and prosecution clearly staged to derail his political career. Navalny, 37, who became famous for investigations of government corruption on his blog, vocal criticism of the Russian government, and unconventional grassroots organizing activities, was sentenced today to five years in prison on charges of theft.

After a local investigation into the alleged theft in 2009 of 16 million rubles (about $482,000) from a Kirov-based timber company was closed for lack of evidence, the case was suspiciously reopened on the federal level by the Investigative Committee of Russia only weeks later. The case explicitly targeted Navalny in an obvious attempt to crush his presidential ambition and neutralize him as an opposition leader. Since Navalny rose to prominence in 2004, he has been known for his innovative public awareness raising initiatives and strident criticism of the ruling United Russia party and President Vladimir Putin, denouncing the former as “the party of crooks and thieves.” Weeks after the trial began, Navalny announced he was running for the powerful seat of the mayor of Moscow and clinched official registration as a candidate just a day before the verdict was handed down.  During the proceedings, judge Sergey Blinov rejected Navalny’s request to have any defense witnesses testify; in contrast, over thirty witnesses of prosecution were allowed to speak in court.

“This whole case reeks of political vindictiveness for Navalny’s corruption revelations and political challenge to Putin and United Russia,” said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House.  “That the verdict was announced right after Navalny was allowed to register as an official candidate for the mayoral seat speaks volumes about the shameless scheming of Russian authorities to silence the loudest and most resourceful voice of the Russian opposition.”

Unless the ruling is overturned on appeal, a process that can last up to several months, Navalny will never be able to hold any government post after the effective date of the verdict. Moscow mayoral elections are scheduled for September 8, 2013, and Navalny will be able to continue campaigning and remain on the ballot while his appeal is being considered. The ruling in today’s case is only the first; there are four other dubious criminal investigations opened against Navalny.

“It is clear that Putin wants Navalny behind bars no matter what, and denying him any witnesses in his defense makes a mockery of the whole trial,” said Kramer. “This warrants a strong, critical reaction from the U.S. and Europe, and those involved in Navalny’s persecution should be candidates for the Magnitsky list.”

Russia is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2013, Freedom House's annual global survey of political rights and civil liberties, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2013 and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2012.

To learn more about Russia, visit:

Freedom in the World 2013: Russia

Nations in Transit 2013: Russia

Freedom of the Press 2013: Russia

Freedom on the Net 2012: Russia

Special Report: Contending with Putin’s Russia

Blog: Freedom at Issue

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Photo Credit: Bogomolov.PL

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

Join us on Facebook and Twitter (freedomhouse). Stay up to date with Freedom House’s latest news and events by signing up for our newsletter.