Responding to news that a Russian prosecutor has lodged a court request to declare Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation and associated organizations as “extremist” and to consequently ban their activities, Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, said:
“This looming ban has far reaching consequences for Russian civil society. Tens of thousands of peaceful activists and the staff of Aleksei Navalny’s organizations are in grave danger – if their organizations are deemed “extremist” they will be at imminent risk of criminal prosecution.
“This move will throw Russia right back to the days where fear of severe state reprisal prevented any form of dissent or acting outside of the “party line”.
“Russia has a long history of abusing “anti-extremism” legislation, like the 2017 ban on the Jehovah’s Witnesses on spurious grounds of ”extremism.” Charges of “extremism” have usually infringed human rights and disregarded minimum fair trial guarantees. Today’s move by the prosecutor will make many think twice about continuing to support Navalny’s anti-corruption and similar organizations.
“If the courts label Navalny’s organizations “extremist” and ban them, 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 16 April, the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office lodged a formal request with the Moscow City Court to label as ‘“extremist” and ban three organizations linked to Aleksei Navalny – the Anti-Corruption Foundation, the Citizens’ Rights Protection Foundation and “Navalny’s headquarters”. According to the Prosecutor’s press office, these organizations are “engaged in creating conditions for destabilizing the social and the socio-political situation under the guise of liberal slogans”.
According to Russian legislation, membership, funding or leading ”extremist” organizations is punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Financing such organizations may lead to up to eight years in jail and public use of their symbols and logos risks a year-long ban on running for elected office.
Aleksei Navalny narrowly survived what has since been independently confirmed as poisoning by Novichok type nerve agent on 20 August 2020. On 17 January, he was detained upon his arrival in Russia from Germany where he had been recovering, and later imprisoned for two years and six months for “violation of the terms of probation”.
Amnesty International considers Aleksei Navalny’s detention unlawful and politically motivated, and calls on the Russian authorities to immediately provide him access to a medical doctor of his choice and to release him.