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Navalny Asks Russian Court To End Nighttime Prison Security Checks

Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny is seen on a screen during a court hearing on May 31.
Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny is seen on a screen during a court hearing on May 31.

Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny asked a court on May 31 to halt the hourly nighttime checks he has been subjected to in his penal colony, saying the measure amounts to “torture.”

Speaking to the court in a video link from prison, Navalny said that he has done nothing that would warrant the authorities' decision to designate him as a flight risk that has resulted in the checks.

“I just want them to stop coming to me and waking me up at night,” he told the Petushinsky District Court in the Vladimir region. “What did I do? Did I climb the fence? Did I dig up an underpass? Or was I wringing a pistol from someone? Just explain why they named me a flight risk!"

The Kremlin foe argued that the nighttime checks “effectively amount to torture,” telling the judge that “you would go mad in a week” if subjected to such regular wake-ups.

The court adjourned the hearing until June 2.

Navalny, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critics, was arrested in January upon his return from Germany, where he had spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin -- accusations that Russian officials reject.

He is serving a 2 1/2-year prison sentence on embezzlement charges that he says were trumped up because of his political activity.

The opposition leader went on a 24-day hunger strike in prison to protest the lack of medical treatment for severe back pain and numbness in his legs, ending it last month after getting the medical attention he demanded.

While he still was on hunger strike, Navalny was moved from a penal colony east of Moscow where he was serving his sentence to the hospital ward of another prison in Vladimir, a city 180 kilometers east of the capital. He still remains at that prison, where he said the nighttime checks continue, although they are less intrusive.

With Navalny in prison, prosecutors have asked a Moscow court to designate his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) and his network of regional offices as extremist groups. A bill, which has sailed quickly through the Kremlin-controlled lower house of parliament, bars members, donors, and supporters of organizations designated as extremist from seeking public office.

The parallel moves have been widely seen as an attempt to keep any of Navalny's associates from running in September's parliamentary elections.

Navalny's regional headquarters have been instrumental in implementing a Smart Voting strategy -- a project designed to promote candidates who are most likely to defeat those from the ruling United Russia party in various elections.

With reporting by AP