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Russian Prison Officials Designate Oppositionist Navalny A 'Terrorist'

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Jailed Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny in a Moscow courtroom earlier this year. (file photo)

MOSCOW -- Imprisoned opposition leader Aleksei Navalny says prison officials in Russia have declared him a person "who espouses an extremist and terrorist ideology," but officially no longer regard him as an escape risk.

Navalny wrote on Instagram on October 11 that the prison commission voted for the new designation unanimously. As a result, he will now have to wear prison trousers with a green stripe down the leg.

Navalny, an anti-corruption lawyer, said that the terrorist designation is normally reserved for "Muslims, nationalists, and soccer fanatics."

The same commission canceled the designation of the 45-year-old Navalny as an escape threat, which he has had since his arrest in Moscow in January. Navalny and his lawyers had complained that the flight-risk designation amounted to torture because it meant that guards had to wake him every hour each night to check on him.

"This is good news," Navalny wrote. "The checks on 'extremists' and 'terrorists' are not as exhausting as for 'flight risks'.... No one checks them."

"I was afraid that I would be obligated to kiss [President Vladimir] Putin's portrait or to memorize quotations from [former President Dmitry] Medvedev, but this hasn't happened," he quipped. "Just over my bunk there is a little sign saying I am a terrorist."

Navalny did not say why officials decided to designate him as a terrorist, but earlier this year his Anti-Corruption Foundation and his network of regional offices were designated "extremist organizations" by the Russian Justice Ministry.

The change in his status has not been officially confirmed.

Navalny was arrested in Moscow in January after returning from Germany, where he underwent medical treatment for a near-fatal nerve-agent poisoning that he suffered in Russia in August. He and his supporters say the poisoning was carried out by Federal Security Service (FSB) operatives at the behest Putin in retribution for Navalny's political activities.

In February, Navalny was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for purported parole violations during his time in Germany in connection with an earlier conviction he dismissed as politically motivated.

Also on October 11, Navalny congratulated Dmitry Muratov, editor in chief of Russia's independent Novaya gazeta newspaper, on his "well-deserved" Nobel Peace Prize.

"From all my soul I congratulate Dmitry Muratov and Novaya gazeta on winning the Nobel Peace Prize," a message posted on Navalny's Twitter account said.

Muratov and investigative journalist Maria Ressa of the Philippines won the prestigious award last week "for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression."

Some of Navalny's allies and supporters had criticized the Nobel Committee's choice, saying the opposition leader would have been a more deserving winner.

After winning the prize, Muratov said he would have given it to Navalny and dedicated the award to the paper's six journalists who have been killed in connection with their work.

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