Russia has declared the organizations founded by imprisoned opposition activist Alexei Navalny illegal, judging them as “extremists”, a label banning its supporters from running in elections and threatening them with years in prison.
A Moscow court on Wednesday ruled that the Navalny Anti-Corruption Fund (FBK) and its network of political activists should be classified alongside Isis and al-Qaeda, a move that human rights groups say is part of the Kremlin. a campaign to silence the opposition President Vladimir Putin ahead of the September parliamentary elections.
Navalny, Putin’s most prominent critic, was arrested in January and sentenced the following month. two and a half years in prison After returning to Russia, he recovered from poisoning by a nerve agent, which he claimed was an assassination attempt ordered by the Kremlin.
“FBK և Navalny’s headquarters are recognized as extremist organizations,” the group’s lawyers said. “As a result, their activities are banned in Russia, and all employees who continue to work for them face real imprisonment.”
According to partial correspondence provided by FBK lawyers, Russian prosecutors claim that this is the case Navalny groupsThrough their activism and protests against both Navalny’s imprisonment and Putin, “under the guise of their liberal slogans, they created conditions to destabilize the socio-political situation. “, taking people to the streets to change the government by force.”
Prosecutors also said FBK payments made to help protesters detained by police for legal fees should be classified as “extremist financing”, which means that those who received the funds could be prosecuted.
The trial lasted more than 12 hours and was closed after it was decided that some of the materials under discussion were confidential. The FBK legal team said it would appeal the decision.
It came just days after Putin enacted a law that made it illegal for members or supporters. “Extremist” organizations to run in the Russian elections. Anyone who has been a member or distributor of materials created by these organizations can be prosecuted and faces up to six years in prison under Russian law.
The Navalny regional network, which has offices in dozens of provincial cities in Russia, is legal is closed in April, before the court decision. The senior partners stated that they will continue their activity individually, regardless of the decision made on Wednesday.
The passage is an important part of Navalny’s efforts September elections use so-called smart voting. An initiative that directs disgruntled voters to support candidates who are likely to oust the incumbent chairman of the ruling United Russia party.
The US State Department condemned the appointment of the court, saying that it would further limit the chances of opposition candidates appearing on the ballot in September.
“By doing so, Russia has effectively criminalized one of the few other independent political movements in the country,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price. “While the scale of today’s action is particularly worrying, it shows the growing pressure on the Russian government by political opposition, civil society and independent media.”
The State Department called for Navalny to be released immediately and urged Russia to end its crackdown on dissent.
FBK, founded by Navalny a decade ago, has published a series of investigations into alleged financial corruption by senior Russian government officials.
In January, after Navalny’s arrest, it was left an investigation What he was saying was a $ 1.4 billion palace on the Black Sea, built for Putin by the oligarchs’ clique, which was viewed 117 million times on YouTube at the time.
The Kremlin has denied any links between Putin and his family’s “palace”, as well as his involvement in Navalny’s poisoning.