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Evading oversight The Russian authorities want Navalny back in Moscow for a parole hearing first thing tomorrow morning

Source: Meduza
Alexander Shcherbak / TASS

Despite the fact that he was poisoned with a chemical nerve agent in Russia, opposition figure Alexey Navalny has been adamant about his plans to return home. But now the Russian authorities have called him back to Moscow earlier than expected. On Monday, December 28, Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service threatened to file a complaint against Navalny in court for violating the terms of his probation. Citing an article published by the doctors who treated him in Germany, the Russian authorities maintained that Navalny has long since recovered from his “illness” and demanded that he show up to a parole hearing in Moscow first thing the next day. While Navalny’s lawyer warns that the opposition figure could end up in jail if his previous sentence is overturned, Navalny and his associates are drawing attention to the fact that this is the first time a branch of the Russian government has effectively acknowledged that he was poisoned. 

The Moscow branch of Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) has threatened to go to court with a request to overturn the suspended sentence given to Navalny in the Yves Rocher case and have him serve real prison time. The FSIN stated that Navalny, who is currently in Germany, has failed to fulfill the conditions of his probation and is evading the department’s oversight. Citing a recent case report on Navalny’s treatment for Novichok-type nerve agent poisoning, published by doctors from Berlin’s Charité Clinic in the scientific journal The Lancet, the FSIN underscored that Navalny had recovered from “all the consequences of his illness” by October 12. As such, the department concluded that the opposition figure may be deliberately evading their supervision.

On December 22, 2020, the journal The Lancet published an article based on materials from the German Charité Clinic, collected according to the results of the treatment of Russian citizen A.A. Navalny. Based on the publication, A.A. Navalny was discharged from the Charité Clinic on September 20, 2020, and by October 12 all consequences of his illness had passed. As such, the conditionally sentenced person isn’t fulfilling the duties assigned to him by the court and is evading the oversight of the prison inspectorate. 

The FSIN has demanded that Navalny — who, as previously mentioned, is still in Germany — appear for a parole hearing in Moscow at 9:00 a.m., on Tuesday, December 29, the day before the end of his probation. On December 30, 2014, the court handling the Yves Rocher case handed Navalny a 3.5-year suspended sentence with five years probation. Navalny’s probation was later extended by one year — until December 30, 2020 — on the grounds that he had been found guilty of committing two administrative offenses due to his participation in unauthorized demonstrations.

According to Navalny’s lawyer Vadim Kobzev, if the FSIN goes to court and the court rules in favor of the department’s claims, Navalny will be sentenced to 3.5 years in prison.

Navalny said that by citing the article in The Lancet, Russia’s FSIN has effectively acknowledged that he was poisoned. Because the case report is titled “Novichok nerve agent poisoning,” “This means that at the official level, the government has acknowledged the poisoning. Where is the criminal case?” Navalny wrote on Twitter. Meanwhile, the Yekaterinburg branch of his office drew attention to the fact that the article in The Lancet doesn’t mention Navalny by name — it simply refers to an unnamed patient, a 44-year-old man from Russia (Berlin’s Charité Hospital did confirm in a press release that the case report is about Navalny’s treatment). 

“The interesting thing is that ‘The Lancet’ didn’t once mention Navalny’s surname. If based on a publication with the title ’Novichok nerve agent poisoning’ the FSIN writes that it’s about Alexey, then you know we have a lot of questions!” 
Team Navalny in Yekaterinburg

Asked to comment on The Lancet’s article on December 25, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists, “We don’t read medical publications.”

Russia’s FSIN has made repeated attempts to overturn Navalny’s past sentences and have him put in prison. In 2015, the department sought to jail him in connection with the first Kirovles case — and it tried again in connection with the aforementioned Yves Rocher case in 2016. The first time around, the authorities tried to jail Navalny on the grounds that he had committed an administrative offense while on probation; the second time, the FSIN maintained that Navalny had failed to show up for parole hearings without valid reasons on multiple occasions (Navalny denied these allegations). In both cases, Russian courts rejected the department’s claims. In 2017, the FSIN went to court in connection with the Yves Rocher case once again, but the court refused to consider the request because it wasn’t signed. The department later said that it never filed a claim at all.

Text by Grigory Levchenko

Translation by Eilish Hart

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