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‘The power is on your side now — but this won’t last forever’  Alexey Navalny’s statement in court during the hearing challenging his detention

Source: Meduza
Evgeny Feldman for “Meduza”

On January 28, the Moscow Regional Court rejected an appeal from opposition figure Alexey Navalny and his lawyers, who were seeking his release from pre-trial detention. Navalny will remain at Moscow’s Matrosskaya Tishina remand prison, where he was placed in custody after returning to Russia from Germany on January 17. During the hearing, Navalny addressed the court via a video link from the prison. Here’s Meduza’s translation of Navalny’s speech.

Please note. This translation has been abridged for length and clarity. You can read a full transcript of Navalny’s speech in Russian here.

This is all so cool I don’t even know where to start. [Here’s] how this usually works: you take a court ruling, look for some violations of the law there, and speak about them during the consideration of the appeal. But here all of this is one big violation of the law, a demonstrative violation of the law. Have you, your honor, read the trial transcript from Khimki? If you read it, you should have laughed very loudly at the entire Moscow Regional Court, because this is the funniest document in the world. And it couldn’t have been put together by a person who has any kind of legal education. What happened is simply impossible.

You know, dear court and dear participants in the proceedings, for a long time, together with our judicial system, I have been going down this ladder, this ladder of the degradation of the judicial system. I’ve seen a lot already, of course. I’m already used to the fact that a huge number of laws simply don’t apply to me. But, you see, some new perspectives have opened up for me all the same; when I’m in a cell, in a cell at a police station, and they come to me and say: “Now we’ll take you to a meeting with your lawyers.” They take me into some kennel where there are cameras, some kind of audience is sitting there, there’s a Russian flag, and they tell me: “Now we’ll put you on trial.” What? How is this even possible? My confused lawyer is standing nearby. I was already thinking, maybe this is [an episode of the] television programme Rozygrysh or something like that? That just now the backdrop will come apart, laughing people will come out from there, Putin will come out and say: “Ha-ha Alexey, this is how we decided to play a joke on you, since you haven’t been in our country for five months. Everything’s fine, everything will be in accordance with the law.” Because well it’s impossible to conduct a trial in a police station without notice! It’s simply impossible!

Your honor, this trial in Khimki finished and within one minute they brought me to sign the papers that [Moscow’s] Simonovsky Court sent to SIZO [pre-trial detention center] Number 1 concerning me. That’s to say when the decision was being made in the Khimki court, the Simonovsky Court already knew that I would be here [in Matrosskaya Tishina]. I have no doubt that [when] my plane was still flying from Vnukovo [airport] to Sheremetyevo [airport], a cell was already being prepared for me here in Matrosskaya Tishina.

[...] Tell me, please, your honor, doesn’t it bother you at all, even a little bit, that we’re actually essentially considering the case about changing my suspended sentence to a real one? This is impossible. But we, nevertheless, are in essence considering it, though the subject here is simply my detention. The whole process is absurd. [...] No one at SIZO Number 1 understands my status, why I’m being detained. What does detained in a [pre-trial detention center] mean? This is a very strange thing. How can they detain me for a month? They didn’t place me under arrest, they detained me. Why aren’t I in a [temporary detention center]? Why am I in a SIZO? 

In the documents on the basis of which I was detained at Sheremetyevo airport it’s written in black and white: “Preventive measures: none.” Well if preventive measures aren’t necessary, why is the phrase I’ve heard most frequently in the last few days: “Please keep your hands behind your back.” If preventive measures aren’t necessary, why am I sitting here? It’s just appalling. The court order contains a set of articles according to which I can be placed under arrest for 30 days. Not one of these articles concern me. They simply don’t apply to me. If right now you were to take the Criminal Procedure Code and the Criminal Code, you would see that they refer to articles that have nothing to do with me. The Khimki Court just decided “Well, which ones are in there…I don’t know, let’s just put down numbers: 234, 328, 344.” They just went and randomly wrote three articles that have nothing to do with me.

As my lawyer [Olga] Mikhailova quite rightly said, a trial can’t come from nowhere. Right? This trial is taking place right now because my defense lawyers and I filed an appeal, a hearing was scheduled, and we’re sitting here, we’re in session. How did this happen at the Khimki Court? I asked the judge: “Who scheduled this hearing?” No answer. “Who relocated the hearing?” No answer. Well that’s impossible. [If it isn’t] then let the judge put on her robe, take her mallet, and walk around the Moscow Metro or around Khimki and say “Under arrest! Under arrest!” Let’s just let her arrest people arbitrarily, if she has the amazing ability to come to any place and put anyone on trial without the appointment of a court hearing. 

I have an answer as to why all this is done this way. Because the task was this: it’s not just lawlessness (lawlessness is a common thing in Russia), it’s demonstrative lawlessness in order to intimidate both me and everyone else. It’s demonstrative lawless, which isn’t even carried out by judges, because the judges here are just obedient slaves. [The ones] doing it are those people who have robbed our country, and they’ve been robbing it for 20 years. And they want to shut the mouths of everyone like me. Not just me — a huge number of people. Because they just want to demonstrate, to show once again: “We can do it! Land the place in another place? Let’s land it! To hell with all the passengers. Shutdown Sheremetyevo? Let’s block it off. What, you think we can’t try you in a police station? We’ll try you in a police station.” Demonstratively, to intimidate everyone, to tell everyone once again: “We’re the masters of this country.” That’s how I want to end my speech, my opinion on this appeal, with what I believe — I’m certain and I declare: They aren’t the masters of our country and they never will be. And a huge number of people, tens of thousands of people agree with me. And we will never allow these people to take over and steal our country. Yes, the power is on your side now. And now you have the possibility to put one person next to me, and a second person next to me (Navalny points to the FSIN officers standing beside him). And put me in handcuffs. But this won’t last forever. Thank you very much. I support the complaint. I demand to be released.

Transcript by Alexander Baklanov and Kristina Safonova

Translated and abridged by Eilish Hart

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