A Russian court has sentenced Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny to 30 days in prison, pending a trial, a speedy judgment following an unprecedented, ad-hoc one day hearing which seemed to ignore most aspects of law and process.
The hearing, in a police station, started earlier on Monday, less than 24 hours after Mr Navalny had been arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on his return to Russia since surviving a nerve agent attack in August.
It took a little over an hour for Judge Yelena Morozova to retire and consider her sentence against Mr Navalny.
When Ms Morozova returned, state prosecutors got the holding, 30-day custodial sentence they asked for. That was never in doubt. Over 99 per cent of trials in Russia end in guilty verdicts, and the stakes riding on this one meant the margin for error was even tighter.
The unanswered questions were what sentence would follow when this one ran out — and how Mr Navalny’s supporters would react. Shortly after the verdict, Mr Navalny released a video recorded during a break in court proceedings calling for his supporters to protest this coming Saturday.
“What do these thieves fear? They fear people on the streets because its a political factor you can’t ignore,” he said. “So don’t be afraid and go out onto the streets.”
Shortly after the verdict, Mr Navalny released a video recorded during a break in court proceedings calling for his supporters to protest. What do these thieves fear? They fear people on the streets because its a political factor you can’t ignore,” he said. “So don’t be afraid and go out onto the streets
Mr Navalny was arrested in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on Sunday evening, after returning to Russia for the first time since his novichok attack in August. He was led away by border officials, after which he disappeared and was denied access to lawyers right up to the start of his improvised court hearing.
In a video released by his press officer, Mr Navalny said he had no idea why the hearing was taking place in a police station.
“We’ve seen justice been mocked in all kinds of ways before… but this is the highest degree of lawlessness,” he said. "Grandad sitting in his bunker is so afraid that he has demonstratively torn up Russia’s criminal code and thrown it into the rubbish bin."
According to the court documents, Mr Navalny was tried for allegedly missing parole registration after being evacuated for treatment in Germany. The parole relates to a suspended sentence handed down in the 2014 “Yves Rocher” case, which was subsequently dismissed as politically motivated by the European Court of Human Rights.
Monday’s process made the violations of that trial look trivial. No independent journalists were allowed into the court, contrary to Russian law. Journalists from state media were, however, present in the makeshift courtroom alongside masked officers — all apparently warned about the hearing well in advance of Mr Navalny’s own lawyers.
HIs detention came as high-placed officials from other countries called for Mr Navalny’s release, including incoming US president Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who lives in Russia.
The developments continued the Kremlin’s unconventional handling of their most prominent enemy. On Sunday, after preparing the scheduled landing airport for war — complete with riot police and guard dogs — authorities at last minute rerouted his plane to another airport.