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European Court: Russia Violated Navalny's Rights With House Arrest

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Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny (file photo)

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Russian authorities violated the rights of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny by holding him under house arrest in 2014.

Navalny was placed under house arrest in February 2014 and confined to his home for several months while he was being investigated on suspicion of embezzlement in the so-called Yves Rocher case, which he and supporters say was politically motivated.

"The restrictions on him, including tight limits on his communicating, [were] out of proportion to the criminal charges he had faced," the ECHR said in a statement after its ruling on April 9.

The ECHR ruled that Russia had violated the European Convention on Human Rights and said it was "apparent that he had been treated in that way in order to curtail his public activities."

The Strasbourg-based court ordered Russia to pay Navalny 20,000 euros ($22,480) in damages and 2,665 euros ($3,000) in remuneration for costs and expenses related to the case.

Navalny called the ECHR's ruling a "victory," while President Vladimir Putin's spokesman criticized it.

"I congratulate our team of lawyers and all the honest people who have supported us," Navalny wrote on Instagram. "I am sure that this ruling will have important consequences for those in Russia who have constantly been facing similar lawlessness."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the ruling was "quite unexpected" and that Putin's administration could "hardly agree" with it.

Russia has lost a number of high-profile cases in Strasbourg and been ordered to pay out hefty compensation in scores of politically embarrassing cases.

In December 2014, Navalny and his brother Oleg were convicted by a Russian court on charges of embezzling 30 million rubles -- then worth about $442,000 -- from the Russian branch of Yves Rocher and another firm.

But the ECHR ruled in October 2017 that the Russian courts violated their right to a fair trial in the case.

That ECHR ruling initially held that their convictions in the Yves Rocher case fell outside the definition of fraud.

When Russia appealed that decision, the ECHR reconsidered the case and in November 2018 expanded its ruling against Russian authorities.

It found that Russia violated Navalny’s rights over numerous arrests and detentions from 2012 to 2014, calling them "unlawful and arbitrary" and "politically motivated."

Navalny, one of Putin’s main political opponents, has led dozens of street protests and published reports alleging corruption among members of the ruling elite.

He has spent a total of more than 200 days in jail since 2011, mostly serving short terms for alleged infractions of laws governing public demonstrations.

Along with the so-called Kirovles case, the Yves Rocher case is one of two in which Navalny has been convicted of financial crimes following trials that supporters contend were Kremlin-orchestrated efforts to punish and sideline him.

His prison sentences in both cases have been suspended, prompting speculation that Putin fears that sending him to prison for years could galvanize Kremlin opponents.

Navalny sought to challenge Putin for the presidency in March 2018 but electoral authorities barred him from the ballot, citing the two convictions.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and Interfax
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