Amnesty International has sharply criticized a request by Russian prosecutors to have the Anti-Corruption Foundation of imprisoned opposition politician Aleksei Navalny banned as an “extremist” organization.
“Tens of thousands of peaceful activists and the staff of Aleksei Navalny’s organizations are in grave danger,” Natalia Zviagina, head of Amnesty’s Moscow office, said in an April 17 statement. “If their organizations are deemed ‘extremist’ they will all be at imminent risk of criminal prosecution.”
The Amnesty statement also decried Russia’s “long history of abusing ‘anti-extremism’ legislation and said that if the courts grant the prosecutors’ request on labeling Navalny’s organization “extremist,” “the result will likely be one of the most serious blows for the rights to freedom of expression and association in Russia’s post-Soviet history.”
On April 16, the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office asked the Moscow City Court to label as “extremist” three organizations tied to Navalny: the Anti-Corruption Foundation, the Citizens’ Rights Protection Foundation, and Navalny’s regional headquarters. Prosecutors said the organizations were “engaged in creating conditions for destabilizing the social and sociopolitical situation under the guise of their liberal slogans.”
Under Russian law, membership in or funding of an “extremist” organization is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The move is the latest in a series of assaults on Navalny since he suffered a nerve-agent poisoning attack in August 2020. He and his supporters blame that attack on Federal Security Service (FSB) operatives acting at the behest of authoritarian President Vladimir Putin.
Navalny spent weeks in Germany recuperating from the attack. When he returned to Russia in January, he was arrested and later sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison on charges he says were trumped up to hinder his political activity.
Navalny has been on a hunger strike in prison since March 31, demanding he be examined by his own doctor amid what his supporters have described as a “deliberate campaign” by prison officials to undermine his health.
On April 17, the French daily Le Monde and other leading European newspapers published an open letter signed by more than 70 actors, writers, directors, and other cultural figures demanding that Navalny be provided adequate medical treatment.
“As a Russian citizen, he is entitled to an examination and treatment by a doctor of his choice,” read the letter, which was signed by Nobel Prize laureates Herta Mueller, Louise Gluck, Orhan Pamuk, and Svetlana Alexievich, among others.