by Sarah Hurst
Alexei Navalny was brought to a Moscow court in handcuffs for his appeal against his 20-day prison sentence today, surrounded by uniformed guards. A crowd of journalists tried to get into the courtroom, but only one or two were allowed in. The courtroom was already oddly full of students. When Navalny saw that he had the same judge who had reduced his last prison sentence by five days in June, he said, “Let’s do the same again today, your honour!”
Navalny’s lawyers argued that his conviction should be quashed because the rally he had called for in Nizhny Novgorod was permitted by local authorities. “How can you punish me for something that is allowed by law?” Navalny asked the judge. “I want to hold a rally. I do it all in accordance with the law.” In any case, the post calling for a rally that he was convicted for was made by lawyer Ivan Zhdanov, Navalny said.
“I understand that I have to be locked up for as long as possible, and especially on October 7, but at least get the paperwork right,” Navalny added – pointing out that a post made by his Foundation for Fighting Corruption after he had been sent to prison had been added to the case materials.
Navalny told the judge that he had already spent one in five days of his election campaign in prison, and that as a Russian citizen over the age of 35 he had the right to campaign without interference. He said that his rallies had been held peacefully and in accordance with the law, and that his arrest was politically motivated.
Useless to be a lawyer in Russia
While waiting for the verdict, Navalny talked to some of the students, who turned out to be law students. “Why did you decide to become lawyers, it’s not so good in Russia,” he asked them. (Navalny is a lawyer by training.) “We’re leaving anyway,” they replied.
After a couple of hours of pretending to think, the judge rejected the appeal, leaving Navalny’s 20-day prison sentence in force. Court officials put the handcuffs back on him. “So, students, do you understand why it’s useless to be a lawyer in Russia?” he said.
In other news, the coordinator of Navalny’s campaign headquarters in Sochi, Konstantin Zykov, was sentenced to 10 days in prison. Meanwhile, the head of the central Tverskoy district of Moscow published an appeal to authorities to allow people to peacefully assemble tomorrow in accordance with the Russian Constitution. “The bright future has arrived, but it has turned out to be darker than the past, since today differs from events of 30 years ago only because permission is given not by Soviets of Deputies, but by the government of Moscow. What’s more, reasons for refusals are often not given, and alternative venues are not proposed,” the appeal said.
Putin will celebrate his birthday tomorrow with a “whole array of phone calls” and meetings with members of the Russian Security Council, his spokesman Dmitri Peskov said. On the streets outside, there are bound to be arrests.
Categories: Campaign diary