Monday, June 21, 2021

Russian court declares Navalny groups ‘extremists’ ahead of election


Wednesday’s decision targeted both Navalny’s regional political offices and the anti-corruption foundation he founded. The foundation known as FBK investigates alleged corruption in Russia.

According to a statement from the press service of the Moscow City Court, the court ordered that FBK be liquidated and its assets transferred to the ownership of the Russian Federation.

The court also banned the activities of Navalny’s regional political offices around Russia, which have held protests in the past, the statement said. His offices had already been dissolved in anticipation of today’s decision.

“The decision on the termination of the activities of these organizations is subject to immediate execution,” the press service of the Moscow City Court said after the hearing.

Both groups deny the allegations of extremism and their lawyers said they would appeal the decision.

Team 29, the legal advocacy group that represented the two organizations, detailed the results of the court order in a statement Wednesday night: “Organizations may not be allowed to disseminate any information, conduct financial transactions, as well as participate in elections and actions.” Ordinary employees of the organization as well as those who commit ‘deliberate action relating to the continuance or renewal of the activities of this organization’ shall face imprisonment of up to six years “

The US State Department condemned the decision on Wednesday, calling the scale of the action “particularly disturbing” and “a sign of the Russian government’s broader crackdown on political protests, civil society and independent media”.

“With this action, Russia has effectively criminalized one of the country’s few remaining independent political movements,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said, adding that it is not the first time Russian officials have tried to stigmatize supporters. And have labeled the groups “extremists” to justify. abuses against them.”

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab described the decision as “perverted” and “Kafka-esque”. “This is another Kafka-esque attack on those who stand against corruption and for an open society, and a deliberate attempt to effectively end real political opposition in Russia,” he said.

Court hearings, which began at 10 am locally on Wednesday and lasted over 12 hours, were held behind closed doors as court materials were classified as “secret”.

According to a social media post published after the court’s decision was announced, Navalny himself did not participate, despite his request to attend the session. The jailed Kremlin critic wrote on Instagram, “The process was conducted behind closed doors, and I myself did not participate. Even though we demanded it, I was not even invited.”

“We are not a name, not a piece of paper or an office. Now we will figure everything out. We will change. We will evolve. We will adapt. But we will not back down from our goals and ideas. This is our country and ours. There is no one else nearby,” Navalny said in the post.

Navalny was imprisoned by a Moscow court earlier this year for allegedly violating the probation conditions of a 2014 case in which he received a suspended sentence of three and a half years.

In the wake of the ruling, most of Navalny’s team and supporters will be barred from participating in Russia’s elections in September. Russian President Vladimir Putin Put on Friday Signed new legislation banning members of extremist groups from running for office.

The case began in April, when the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office sued for labeling Navalny’s organizations as extremist.

In a statement after Wednesday’s hearing, the prosecutor said he considered the court’s decision “legal and proper” and stressed that FBK and Navalny’s headquarters regularly hold unauthorized events.

Navalny and his team have nonetheless vowed to continue their efforts to implement political change in Russia. In an Instagram post shared after the hearing, Navalny encouraged Russians to tactfully vote in favor of one candidate on a ballot capable of ousting an office-bearer of Putin’s ruling party, United Russia.

CNN’s Arnaud Siad and Jennifer Hansler contributed reporting.

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