ATlexei Navalny does not intend to give up. The forties, locked up since 2021, was still determined during his trial on Tuesday, February 15. Main opponent of Vladimir Putin, Navalny had already survived a poisoning attempt in 2020. He appeared very emaciated in the courtroom, located a hundred kilometers from Moscow, dressed in a convict outfit and shaved hair .
His trial comes as the movement of President Vladimir Putin’s top critic was crushed last year by Russian authorities, who ordered his ban and launched multiple lawsuits against his executives.
“I will continue to fight,” Navalny promised during the hearing. “I say this to those who are against the plundering of Russia, to those who do not like United Russia [le parti de Vladimir Poutine, NDLR] “, he told the court. During a break at the start of the hearing, the 45-year-old opponent took his wife Yulia Navalnaïa in his arms and kissed her several times, smiling, noted an AFP journalist.
The imprisonment of Mr. Navalny has been strongly criticized by Western countries and this new trial risks rekindling tensions. “His conviction is incompatible with the principles of the rule of law,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz denounced on Tuesday during a trip to Moscow. The head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken said he was “worried” about the new charges against the Russian opponent and called, in a tweet, for his “release” and the end of the prosecution against him.
Trial in prison
For more than a year, Alexei Navalny has been serving a sentence for a controversial “fraud” case, in penal colony No. 2 in Pokrov, 100 kilometers east of Moscow. It is from this prison that his trial is held, which opened on Tuesday, a situation denounced by the opponent and his supporters, judging that it is a means of limiting the publicity of the debates.
“I am not yet found guilty, but I am presented in prison uniform. […] It’s so that the grandmother who watches TV thinks that [je] I’m already in jail anyway,” he protested. In this trial, investigators accuse Alexei Navalny of having embezzled more than 356 million rubles (4.1 million euros) in donations made to his anti-corruption organizations, charges punishable by a 10-year prison sentence.
“I have the right to investigate how our money is stolen!” he thundered, believing that there was no proof that he stole “a single penny”. The activist also faces up to six months in prison for contempt of court in one of his previous hearings. The two cases are tried in the same trial. His lawyers demanded on Tuesday that he be dressed in civilian clothes and that the hearing be adjourned and transferred to a Moscow court, requests denied by Judge Margarita Kotova.
” I am not afraid “
His wife and infallible supporter, Yulia Navalnaïa, rose up on Monday against the “cowardice” of the Kremlin, describing the new prosecutions against her husband as “illegal”. In 2020, Alexei Navalny spent several months recovering in Germany after narrowly surviving poisoning by a nerve agent, for which he holds Vladimir Putin responsible.
He was arrested in January 2021 on his return to his country and imprisoned in a “fraud” case dating from 2014. A conviction which provoked new Western sanctions against Moscow.
In June 2021, the main opposition organizations were qualified as “extremists” by the courts, a decision which led to their closure and the prosecution of many of their activists. Many of them are now in exile. At the end of January, Mr. Navalny was himself placed on the list of “terrorists and extremists”. He is also the subject of prosecution for “creating an extremist organization”, a crime also punishable by 10 years in prison.
One of the prosecutors reaffirmed on Tuesday that the opponent had carried out “extremist activities under the pretext of fighting corruption”. With his usual irony, Navalny had told his supporters in September not to worry, because he would be “free no later than the spring of 2051.” “You will increase my pain indefinitely,” he told his friends. judges on Tuesday. “But what can we do about it? What people do is more important than one person’s fate. I am not afraid. »