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26 Apr, 2021 11:27

Moscow prosecutors order suspension of jailed Alexey Navalny’s political operations ahead of possible ‘extremism’ court ruling

Moscow prosecutors order suspension of jailed Alexey Navalny’s political operations ahead of possible ‘extremism’ court ruling

Allies of opposition figure Alexey Navalny will be banned from holding rallies, appearing on state media or taking part in elections in Russia until a court determines whether the political group is an "extremist organization."

On Monday, prosecutors in Moscow announced that they would require Navalny’s campaign headquarters to cease a number of its core activities while charges are being considered. Earlier this month, officials brought a case before judges in the Russian capital, alleging that the grouping publicizes “extremist” material, including calls for riots and participation in unauthorized protests. 

Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Fund, already registered as a ‘Foreign Agent’ by the country’s Ministry of Justice, which reports that it has links to funding from overseas, is also being assessed as part of the proceedings, but has not yet received a similar suspension. In 2019, the outfit came under scrutiny from state investigators, who launched a probe into $15 million in funds allegedly laundered through its accounts. Then, in December last year, a new inquiry began into whether Navalny himself had spent $4.8 million, originally raised for campaigning, on “personal purposes.”

Also on rt.com Russian investigators probe alleged $15mn money-laundering scheme by Navalny’s anti-corruption fund

The latest round of hearings, which began on Monday at the Moscow City Court, could lead to Navalny’s allies being effectively banned from putting candidates forward or from displaying logos and slogans. Other organizations that have received  “extremist” designations include the so-called Islamic State and the Taliban.

Security measures have reportedly been strengthened around the building where the tribunal is taking place, behind closed doors. Jurists are also mulling restrictions imposed on online student publication DOXA, which is accused of inciting underage minors to participate in unauthorized protests in support of Navalny. Four of its editors are now effectively under house arrest and banned from communicating with anyone but their legal teams.

Asked about the impending case on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted that it was not a matter for the presidential administration. “Firstly, we never comment on court decisions,” he said. “Secondly, there is no court decision yet, so there’s nothing to comment on anyway.”

Last week, Navalny’s supporters organized a series of rallies held in cities across Russia to demand Navalny’s release from prison, where he is serving time for breaching the terms of a suspended sentence handed down for fraud. The unauthorized gatherings, currently banned under Russia’s Covid-19 laws, were held amid reports that the activist’s health was deteriorating. He announced on March 31 that he would begin a hunger strike, demanding he be granted access to doctors of his choice for leg and back pain. As in many countries, it is not customary for Russian inmates to choose their own physicians.

However, despite attracting close to half a million signatures online expressing interest in participating, only a fraction of the expected crowds showed up on the day and the events were largely peaceful. Only isolated clashes were reported between protesters and police, with the bulk of arrests reportedly taking place in St Petersburg, which saw some of the most violent episodes during similar protests held after Navalny was arrested in January.

Following the demonstrations, the jailed campaigner said in a statement that he would end his hunger strike and revealed that he had actually been seen by private doctors prior to them taking place.

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