Kremlin Critic’s House Arrest Violated His Human Rights, European Court Rules

(Bloomberg) -- The Kremlin once again sought to stifle democratic opposition with its house arrest of opposition leader Alexey Navalny in 2014, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in its latest rebuke to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Navalny’s 10 months of house arrest beginning in February 2014 while Moscow police said they were investigating him for alleged fraud and money laundering constituted a violation of his right to liberty and freedom of expression and was “out of proportion” to the criminal charges he faced, the Strasbourg-France based court ruled Tuesday. It ordered Russia pay the political activist 20,000 euros ($22,550) in damages and 2,665 euros in costs and expenses.

The court said in its ruling that Russian authorities were pursuing a similar style of intimidation to an earlier case against Navalny, “namely to suppress political pluralism.”

The case represents the second time the ECHR has ruled in Navalny’s favor in less than five months, after he complained of illegal treatment at the hands of Russian authorities. Multiple arrests and pre-trial detention in 2012 and 2014 violated Navalny’s human rights and were part of a general movement “to bring the opposition under control,” the court said last November.

Navalny tweeted out an immediate response. “Victory,” he wrote. “The European court has just admitted that the house arrest under which I spent the year in 2014 was illegal.”

The court’s decision was “rather unexpected,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call Tuesday. “It’s hardly possible, in fact, to agree with it.”

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.