A lawyer representing the anti-corruption foundation of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was detained in Moscow on Friday morning, his colleague said on social media.
St. Petersburg-based lawyer Ivan Pavlov has been representing Navalny's Foundation for Fighting Corruption after authorities filed a lawsuit to ban the foundation and the politician's network of regional offices as extremist organisations.
Pavlov's colleague, Yevgeny Smirnov, said on Facebook that Pavlov was detained after his hotel room in Moscow was searched. Russia's Federal Security Service, the FSB, was involved, Smirnov said. Pavlov is being accused of disclosing information related to a police investigation, a criminal offense punishable by a fine, community service or arrest of up to three months.
It wasn't immediately clear which case Pavlov's detention was connected to. He is also defending Ivan Safronov, a Russian journalist charged with treason, a prosecution that has been widely seen as politically motivated, and has been involved in other high-profile treason cases.
Pavlov had been due to appear in a Moscow court on Friday at a hearing into extending Safronov's pre-trial detention.
According to Smirnov, Pavlov frequently received threats from investigators at the FSB, with one of them saying to Pavlov that "we're going to do everything to put you behind bars." Team 29, a team of lawyers Pavlov heads in St. Petersburg specializing in freedom of speech cases, said on social media that law enforcement targeted Pavlov's wife in St. Petersburg and the team's IT specialist with home searches. The Investigative Committee is also searching the team's offices, the team said.
Earlier this month, the Moscow prosecutor's office petitioned the Moscow City Court to outlaw Navalny's Foundation for Fighting Corruption and his network of regional offices as extremist groups. The move is part of a sweeping crackdown on Navalny, President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic, his allies and his political infrastructure.
Navalny is currently serving time in a penal colony outside Moscow. He was arrested in January upon his return from Germany, where he had spent five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning he blames on the Kremlin. Russian officials have rejected the accusations.
In the aftermath of nationwide protests in January triggered by the politician's arrest, some of his top allies were slapped with criminal charges and placed under house arrest, and dozens of his associates in the regions were targeted with detentions and raids.
The case against Navalny's foundation and regional offices is scheduled to be heard by the Moscow City Court on May 17. It remains unclear what evidence authorities have against the organizations because some of the case files have been classified as secret.
After taking on the case earlier this week, Pavlov vowed to make the legal proceedings "as open as possible to a wide audience, while not formally disclosing any state secrets." "We understand how important it is to know what the authorities implicate the Foundation for Fighting Corruption with," Pavlov said in a social media post.
The lawyer said after a preliminary hearing Thursday that the defense team has filed a lawsuit to declassify the files in the case. Pavlov also said that the case files revealed a criminal case has been launched against Navalny and top allies Leonid Volkov and Ivan Zhdanov on charges of creating an organization that infringes on people's rights, a criminal offense punishable by up to four years in prison.
Last August, Russian media reported that the FSB had lodged a complaint against Pavlov over his refusal to sign a non-disclosure statement in Safronov's case. Pavlov said at the time that he had signed a statement not to disclose state secrets in connection to the case, but no one had asked him to sign a broader non-disclosure statement.
Kremlin critic Navalny calls Putin 'naked king' in his first hearing since hunger strike
Moscow: A judge in Moscow upheld a defamation conviction Thursday against jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny, who joined a court hearing via video link, in his first public appearance since he went on hunger strike.
According to CNN, Navalny used the platform to launch a broadside against President Vladimir Putin and his government, likening him to the foolish "naked king" from "The Emperor's New Clothes" children's tale and calling the judge and prosecutors "traitors." He was jailed in February in a separate case for breaking parole conditions, despite being in Germany recovering from poisoning with the military grade nerve agent Novichok when he was accused of failing to report to parole officers. Navalny blames the Kremlin for the attempt on his life, which the government has repeatedly denied.
The Kremlin critic went on hunger strike on March 31 while in prison to demand medical care, but ended it last week when he was finally given medical attention.
He spoke with his wife, Yulia Navalnya, who was physically present in court, telling her details about his weight and what he last ate. Navalny said he was taken to a bathhouse so that he could look "decent" for his hearing, as reported by CNN.
"I looked at myself. I'm just an awful skeleton. Last time I weighed 72 kilos I was probably in the seventh grade," he said. His lawyer said Navalny had weighed 94 kilograms in January, when he returned to Moscow from Germany. Navalny added that he ate "four tablespoons of porridge a day, today five, tomorrow I will eat six." According to CNN, in his final statement before Judge Kurysheva Natalia left to consider a decision, Navalny launched a tirade against Putin, likening him to the foolish king in the children's tale "The Emperor's New Clothes." "I would like to say that your king is naked, and more than one little boy is shouting about it -- it is now millions of people who are already shouting about it. It is quite obvious. Twenty years of incompetent rule have come to this: there is a crown sliding from his ears," Navalny said of Putin, referring also to the mass anti-government protests in Russia following the activist's imprisonment and during his hunger strike.
"Your naked king wants to rule until the end, he doesn't care about the country, he is clung to power and wants to rule indefinitely," he said.
He also told the judge to stop interrupting him, calling her a traitor as well.
"You are all traitors. You and the naked king are implementing a plan to seize Russia, and the Russians should be turned into slaves. Their wealth will be taken away from them, they will be deprived of any prospects, you have implemented that plan." According to CNN, he was found guilty on February 20 of defaming a World War II veteran, 94-year-old Ignat Artemenko. The case was brought to court over comments Navalny made on social media last June criticizing a video broadcast by state TV channel RT, in which various prominent figures expressed support for controversial changes to the Russian constitution. Artemenko was among those supporters. Navalny was fined 850,000 roubles (around $11,400).
The constitutional changes, which were backed in a July 1 referendum, paved the way for Putin to stay in office until 2036, despite having already ruled the country for two decades.
Navalny's lawyer, Olga Mikhailova, said her client would appeal the decision in the European Court of Human Rights, "given the number of violations" in the way the case was carried out. "He lost a huge amount of weight. He starved for a long time, he only drank water. But he looks quite fresh for a person in his situation," she said.
Mikhailova confirmed that Navalny was still being treated at a hospital within the penal colony in the region of Vladimir, where he is imprisoned.
Russia has brought several cases against Navalny, which he and his supporters say are trumped up.