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At European Court, Navalny Accuses Russia Of Political Persecution


Aleksei Navalny waits for the start of a hearing at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on January 24.

Opposition politician Aleksei Navalny has told the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that his repeated arrests at the hands of the Russian authorities are politically motivated.

Navalny spoke at the court in Strasbourg on January 24, at a hearing in his case against Russia over incidents in which he has been detained -- and in some cases then jailed -- while attempting to take part in demonstrations.

The hearing came days ahead of protests that Navalny is organizing across Russia in support of his call for a boycott of the March 18 election that he said is certain to hand President Vladimir Putin a new six-year term.

"The probability that there is no politics in this case is as low as the chance of us seeing a dinosaur in this building or of Putin losing the election in March," Navalny said at the hearing.

Navalny has been campaigning for the election but has been barred from the ballot by the Central Election Commission, which says a criminal conviction makes him ineligible to run.

Navalny says his convictions in two financial-crimes cases were engineered by the Kremlin to punish him for his opposition activity and keep him out of public office.

Speaking at the hearing, his lawyer Olga Mikhailova said that "Navalny is the person whom Putin is most scared of."

Both Navalny and Russia have appealed a February 2017 ruling in which the ECHR said that Russian authorities violated his right to free assembly and unlawfully detained him seven times between 2012 and 2014.

The court, which also found that Navalny was unlawfully placed in pretrial detention twice in that period, ordered Russia to pay him 63,000 euros ($78,000).

A final ruling is expected at a later date.

With reporting by AP and Deustche Welle