Navalny set to appear in Russian court, a possible opportunity to call for new protests

Navalny set to appear in Russian court, a possible opportunity to call for new protests

Ten days after opposition leader Alexei Navalny last appeared in a makeshift courtroom at a Moscow police station, Navalny is set to have an appeals hearing on Thursday over the decision to jail him ahead of his trial next week.

It’s unlikely the Moscow Regional Court will free Navalny, who was sentenced to 30 days at a pretrial detention center pending his Feb. 2 trial for allegedly violating probation terms. But Thursday’s hearing could give Navalny and his allies another opportunity to call for street protests.

Navalny has requested to participate directly in the appeals hearing, his lawyer, Olga Mikhailova, told the Meduza news outlet, but it’s unclear if he will be allowed to appear in person due to coronavirus restrictions. At Navalny’s last court appearance on Jan. 18 — he returned to Russia the night before after recovering in Germany from a near-fatal poisoning — Navalny was able to record a video message for his supporters.

“They are afraid of you,” he said, calling Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime a gang of monstrous crooks. “They are afraid, and that is why they do things urgently and secretly.”

“So I appeal to you,” he said. “Don’t keep quiet. Resist! Take to the streets! No one can protect us but ourselves, and there are so many of us that if we want to achieve something, we will achieve it.”

Tens of thousands of protesters called for Navalny’s freedom in demonstrations throughout Russia on Saturday, and authorities detained more than 3,700 people, according to rights group OVD-Info. Navalny has said Putin ordered the toxic attack on him in August during a trip to Siberia, and Western governments have condemned Russia’s move to jail him.

In what Navalny said was a show of fearlessness, he waited until returning to Russia last week to release a video investigation into a billion-dollar Black Sea palace he alleges was built for Putin through a complex “slush fund.”

Putin, who has refused to even call Navalny by name, offered a rare rebuttal to the expose, denying he or his close relatives own the property.

That Putin even acknowledged the video, which tallied more than 90 million views in a week, is indicative of how much it’s rattled the Kremlin.

Authorities ramped up pressure on Navalny’s associates Wednesday night, raiding Navalny’s apartments, offices and also the homes of his aides. Navalny’s brother, Oleg, was detained. Ivan Zhdanov, the director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, said on Twitter that the searches were for alleged violations of coronavirus hygiene restrictions.

Navalny’s team has already called for more protests on Sunday.

“All of Russia will take to the streets again,” the Twitter account for his Navalny Live YouTube channel said in a post that called the raids an attempt at intimidation.

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