Poisoned Russian dissident detained after returning to Moscow
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Poisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who was detained after landing in Moscow’s airport, said his treatment was beyond a “mockery of justice” as he was brought before court Monday, according to reports.
“I’ve seen a lot of mockery of justice, but the old man in the bunker (President Putin) is so afraid that they have blatantly torn up and thrown away” Russia’s criminal code, the dissident said, Agence France-Presse reported.
A judge on Monday ordered Navalny jailed for 30 days — he was taken into custody Sunday evening after flying home for the first time since he was poisoned last summer.
In a video from inside a police station, the 44-year-old called the hearing “the highest degree of lawlessness” as he lashed out at the Russian strongman, according to Reuters.
About 200 of his supporters gathered outside the police station in frigid conditions and demanded he be set free, a witness told the news agency.
Navalny’s detention was ordered by Moscow’s prison service in connection with alleged violations of a suspended prison sentence in an embezzlement case he insists was trumped up.
The hearing — parts of which were live-streamed by Navalny’s supporters — may rule for him to be confined until a different court decides whether to convert that suspended 3 ½-year sentence into real prison time.
In another video, Navalny called for the hearing to be open to all journalists after only pro-Kremlin news outlets were allowed to attend.
“I demand that this procedure be as open as possible so that all media have the opportunity to observe the amazing absurdity of what is happening here,” he said, according to AFP.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday condemned Navalny’s “arbitrary” arrest and demanded his release, according to her spokesman.
Navalny arrived at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after flying in from Berlin, where he had been treated following the poisoning in August that he blames on the Kremlin.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said “it is completely incomprehensible that he was detained by Russian authorities immediately after his arrival.
“Russia is bound by its own constitution and by international commitments to the principle of the rule of law and the protection of civil rights,” Maas added. “These principles must of course also be applied to Alexei Navalny. He should be released immediately.”
A spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a similar statement.
“It is appalling that Mr. Navalny has been detained by the Russian authorities and he must be immediately released,” the spokesman said.
”Rather than persecuting Mr. Navalny, Moscow should fulfill its obligation under international law to investigate and explain the use of a chemical weapon on Russian soil,” he told reporters.
Calls for his prompt release have also come from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and top officials of other EU nations.
Jake Sullivan, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for national security adviser, said in a tweet: “Mr. Navalny should be immediately released, and the perpetrators of the outrageous attack on his life must be held accountable.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday said the flood of calls for Navalny’s release reflects an attempt “to divert attention from the crisis of the Western model of development.”
“Navalny’s case has received a foreign policy dimension artificially and without any foundation,” Lavrov said, insisting that his detention was a right of Russian law enforcement agencies.
“It’s a matter of observing the law,” he added.
Navalny fell into a coma while on a domestic flight from Siberia to Moscow on Aug. 20. Two days later, he was transferred from a hospital in Siberia to one in Berlin.
Labs in Germany, France and Sweden, and tests by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, established that he was exposed to a Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent.
Jaka Bizilj, the head of the Berlin-based charity Cinema for Peace that brought Navalny to the German capital, said it was a “crime” that Russia had detained him. He said the decision to arrest Navalny was a political act.
“It really was just luck that he survived at all,” Bizilj told Reuters on Monday. “To get arrested again upon his arrival, and get sent to jail: that is the worst Russia can do in the eyes of the world.
“He’s still not fully recovered. And to put him in prison in this condition is an additional crime,” he added.
With Post wires
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