Russian Judge Sentences Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny to 30 Days in Jail

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks as he waits for a court hearing in Moscow, Russia, January 18, 2021. (@navalny/Instagram via Reuters)

A Russian judge ruled Monday that opposition leader Alexei Navalny must remain in retail detention for 30 days after he was detained on Sunday immediately upon his return to Moscow, where he traveled after recovering in Germany from a near-fatal poisoning attack.

“The court arrested Navalny for 30 days. Until February 15,” the judge’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh wrote on Twitter.

Navalny’s lawyers learned of the Monday morning hearing just minutes before it began at a police station, instead of a normal courtroom, in the outskirts of Moscow. The judge allotted the attorneys just 30 minutes to familiarize themselves with the case and another 20 minutes to speak to their client.

Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said the ruling “cannot even be called a parody of the rule of law.”

“They detained him at the border, took him to places unknown, his lawyer was not granted access, the hearing was carried out urgently right in the police station and he was detained for 30 days,” Yarmysh said.

Navalny was already scheduled to appear at a January 29 hearing on charges that he had violated the parole terms of a previous suspended sentence by staying in Germany while undergoing treatment, the reason for which he was officially detained. He received the earlier suspended prison sentence and probation order in 2014 for embezzlement and money laundering, a case which the European Court of Human Rights in 2018 called politically motivated.

He has called the criminal cases against him “fabricated” and said the authorities’ intent is to deter him from returning.

After the court’s ruling, Navalny urged people to take to the streets in protest.

“Don’t be afraid, take to the streets. Don’t go out for me, go out for yourself and your future,” Navalny said in a video posted to YouTube.

Navalny nearly died over the summer after being poisoned by Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent. He had been on a flight to Moscow after meeting with supporters in Siberia when he fell ill.

The Russian dissident blames Russian President Vladimir Putin for the poisoning, though the Kremlin has denied having any involvement.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday called for the opposition leader’s  “immediate and unconditional release,” and said his detention was “the latest in a series of attempts to silence Navalny and other opposition figures.”

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