Alexei Navalny’s Trial: Blatant Misuse of Criminal Law

  • European Security Journal
  • 9.2.2021 08:47

Russia is in the middle of political turbulence which has recently swept the Eastern countries. In Russia’s case, Alexei Navalny, the primary political opposition figure in Russia, was sentenced to prison on criminal charges. With this latest trial, however, the Kremlin seems to have lost all PR points it could have had.

On Friday, 5th February, Navalny was summoned to a Moscow court on defamation charges. The Russian opposition leader, around whom the citizens base their hopes for a better, law-ruled country, has allegedly insulted the dignity of a Russia WWII veteran. In short, Navalny has denounced everyone who participated in endorsing the constitutional changes in 2020. 

Navalny, in his videos, has not accused anyone directly, but called every participant a traitor and used other words, questioning the dignity of featured persons. Amongst these people was a veteran, who was later filmed asking state authorities to investigate Navalny for defamation. Use of, or misuse of war veterans is a centuries-old ideological tool of bolstering state-support and nationalism, but this is the first time the Kremlin is using this card against the opposition so boldly.

 

“Use of, or misuse of war veterans is a centuries-old ideological tool of bolstering state-support and nationalism, but this is the first time the Kremlin is using this card against the opposition so boldly.”

 

Navalny is no stranger to courts, but this case was exceptional in every aspect. To further his rhetoric of being a people’s hero fighting against a corrupt oligarchical state, Navalny showed no remorse and no reservation during the eight-hour procession. He kept verbally assaulting the veteran, whom he called a pawn, and voiced his concerns that the veteran’s family, whom he finds to be the real driving power behind the veteran, will “suffocate the old man in his sleep to make it look like the court did the poor guy in”. Throughout the hearing, he kept accusing the family and the court of being, mildly put, slaves on the state’s leash and participating in a political process that has nothing to do with the law.

Navalny has decided to completely delegitimize the court and people who tried to accuse him. This way, the whole case will be clearly seen as a politically motivated attempt at eliminating the Russia opposition. But the worst thing that could happen for the Kremlin happened – the accusing party, both the veteran and his family member serving as a witness, failed to confirm that they were the ones who brought the charges against Navalny. 

The trial was officially stated to be an individual’s case against Navalny. In Russian law, without a clearly defined accuser, the defendant cannot be found guilty. The amateurish approach of the state in constructing the lawsuit completely backfired, and it is now factually unconstitutional. There is no doubt that during the next hearing the court will find an actual accuser, or maybe the veteran and his family will reinvent their statements. However, the illusion of rule of law has already been destroyed and no amount of manipulations will change the results of the first hearing.

 

“Russia is using the power of law to unlawfully persecute its citizens.”

 

In response to this lawsuit, EU members sent their diplomats as observers. This was again used by the Kremlin as a source of accusations of interference with internal Russian politics. German, Polish and Swedish diplomats have been expelled from the country. Russian neighbours and partners have clear evidence that Russia is using the power of law to unlawfully persecute its citizens. It is up to them to question whether such a repressive state can be trusted.

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