The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has demanded that Russia release opposition politician Alexey Navalny from custody immediately, Interfax reports citing his lawyer, Olga Mikhailova. A copy of the court’s decision was also published on Navalny’s website on Wednesday, February 17.
According to the document, the European Court’s judges ordered Navalny’s immediate release taking into account “the nature and extent of risk to the applicant’s life […] in the light of the overall circumstances of the applicant’s current detention.” The court underscored that “this measure has been granted without prejudice to the Court’s decision on the merits of the present case.”
According to Mikhailova, the Russian authorities are obliged to comply with this ruling, in according with the rules of the European Court. That said, on February 16, the Russian Justice Ministry told the state news agency TASS that Russia will not release Navalny’s under ECHR interim measures.
“Adopting a decision based on Rule 39 of European Court of Human Rights’ Rules of Court in this case will be an ungrounded and flagrant intervention in the operation of a judicial system of a sovereign state, a certain crossing of a red line. Such decision cannot be executed from the standpoint of the international law,” the ministry said.
Update. The Russian Justice Ministry responded to the ECHR’s decision by calling it “deliberately impracticable.”
On January 17, Alexey Navalny was arrested upon returning to Moscow from Berlin, where he spent nearly five months recovering after a near-fatal poisoning attack in August 2020. On February 2, Moscow’s Simonovsky Court ruled that Navalny had violated the terms of his probation in the Yves Rocher case while abroad — in turn, the court revoked his probation and sentenced him to 3.5 years in prison. Pending an appellate ruling, Navalny will spend the next two years and eight months in prison due to time previously served under house arrest.
The “Yves Rocher” case dates back to 2014, when Navalny and his brother Oleg were found guilty of embezzlement and laundering funds stolen from two Russian companies associated with the French cosmetics brand. Oleg Navalny was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison and Alexey Navalny was given a 3.5-year probation sentence. The brothers pleaded not guilty, calling the case politically motivated.
In 2017, the European Court of Human Rights declared the verdicts “unjust” and ordered the Russian authorities to pay the Navalny brothers compensation. Their sentences were never overturned, however.