Campaign diary

ECHR compensation

Navalny brothers2

Alexei and Oleg Navalny in court. Photo: Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

by Sarah Hurst

The European Court of Human Rights ruled today that the conviction of Alexei Navalny and his brother Oleg for embezzlement in the so-called “Yves Rocher case” in 2014 was unfair and that the Russian government should pay them compensation of 55,000 euros and 28,000 euros respectively, plus expenses.

“All this [case] was set up with only one aim: to prevent my anti-corruption and political activity through pressure on me and my family,” Alexei Navalny commented from prison, where he is serving a 20-day sentence for “calling for unauthorised rallies”.

The ECHR concluded that a company known as GPA in which the Navalny brothers were involved “was set up for profit-making purposes and the applicants thus pursued the same goal as any other founder of a commercial entity. The domestic courts did not refer to a method for identifying a distinctively criminal ‘motive of personal gain’ in what was otherwise a lawful commercial pursuit in relation to [another involved company] MPA and Yves Rocher Vostok.”

The ruling continued: “Furthermore, the classification of GPA’s profit as ‘stolen property’ without any qualification showed that the boundaries between the criminal offence imputed to the applicants and regular commercial activity were indeed indiscernible.”

No criminal offence 

The ECHR said that the Navalny brothers’ trial violated Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights,  which states that no one should be convicted of a criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence under national or international law at the time when it was committed. It also violated Article 6, the right to a fair trial, as the defendants were not permitted to call the witnesses they wanted.

The ECHR had previously ruled that the Navalny brothers were unfairly convicted in the Kirovles case, which has resulted in Oleg spending years in prison and Alexei being banned from participating in the upcoming presidential election. To demonstrate their utter contempt for the ECHR, Russian authorities held a retrial in the Kirovles case earlier this year and produced an identical, word-for-word verdict.

Alexei is due to be released from prison on Sunday, when he also plans to hold another election rally in Astrakhan. The latest ECHR ruling is unlikely to deter Putin from putting him back behind bars in very short order. As the head of Russia’s electoral commission, Ella Pamfilova, told participants in a youth festival in Sochi, Navalny will be eligible to participate in an election “in about 2028”.

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