Russian Court Orders Navalny to Remain in Jail Ahead of Trial

A Moscow Region court rejected jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny’s appeal to be released pending a Feb. 2 hearing.

“Everything was clear to me even before the beginning of the hearing,” Navalny told the judge after the ruling Thursday. He spoke via video link from the Moscow jail where he was taken after being arrested upon his return to Russia Jan. 17.

Police detained Navalny’s brother Oleg and several other activists Wednesday night ahead of a planned nationwide protest Sunday to demand the Kremlin critic’s release.

Allies Lyubov Sobol and doctor Anastasia Vasilyeva were also detained for 48 hours, Ivan Zhdanov, director of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, wrote on Twitter. Investigators have said the rallies organized Jan. 23 allegedly violated sanitary regulations aimed at slowing the spread of Covid-19.

The authorities also opened a criminal case against one of Navalny’s top aides, Leonid Volkov, alleging he encouraged minors to participate in the unsanctioned protests, Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a statement Thursday.

“As usual, black is white, freedom is slavery and two times two is five,” Volkov said on Twitter in response to the charges. He denied appealing to underage protesters.

Tens of thousands of people in cities across Russia joined protests last Saturday to demand Navalny be freed from jail, where he is being held for 30 days over alleged parole violations. They were some of the largest unsanctioned rallies under President Vladimir Putin’s 21-year rule. The Kremlin has rejected calls from Western leaders to release Navalny.

At the Feb. 2 hearing, a Moscow court will rule on a motion by authorities to convert a suspended sentence Navalny received in a 2014 case into as long as 3 1/2 years of prison time. Authorities argue he failed to check in as required, including during the time last year he was in a German hospital recovering from an August nerve-agent attack that he and Western governments blame on the Kremlin. Russian authorities deny any involvement.

Moscow prosecutors Thursday issued official warnings to organizers of the Jan. 31 protests, as well as five internet companies distributing calls to join the actions, Tass reported.

Oleg Navalny was let out of prison in 2018 after serving a 3 1/2 year sentence for embezzlement that the opposition says was used to put pressure on his brother. The European Court of Human Rights in 2017 ruled the brothers’ right to a fair trial was violated in that case.

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