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Russian court rejects appeal for Alexey Navalny to be released – opposition figure will remain behind bars until trial

On Thursday, a judge heard arguments from Navalny’s lawyers, who had been petitioning for his release from Matrosskaya Tishina prison ahead of his full trial, set to take place in February.

However, the court upheld a previous decision to keep him in jail until the start of the case.

The defense claimed that a court decision earlier in January to detain the activists for thirty days while the case against him was prepared was unjust.

They insist that the extension hadn’t been requested by prosecutors, and that they weren’t given adequate time or access to prepare for the first hearing. Additionally, they objected to the fact it was held in a makeshift courthouse in the police station where he was being held. Authorities said this was because the activist had not undergone a coronavirus test.

Navalny appeared at Moscow Region Court on Thursday by video link, wearing a dark navy hooded top and seated in front of a cell door. After claiming that he had never had the opportunity to meet alone with his legal team, he was offered a short break to convene with those advocating on his behalf.

Navalny had been handed a three-and-a-half year sentence, suspended for a total of six years, over a previous fraud conviction. He was arrested earlier this month when he landed in Moscow on a flight from Berlin, where he had been transferred in a comatose state after what his supporters allege was a state-sponsored poisoning with the nerve agent Novichok.

The Kremlin has denied and even ridiculed the claims, with its spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying that Navalny has a “persecution  complex” and supposedly compares himself to Jesus.Earlier on Thursday, the head of the department responsible for suspended sentences at the Federal Penitentiary Service, Elena Korobkova, told Interfax that the case against the Moscow protest leader did not just relate to losing contact with officers while in Germany.

“There is a lot of speculation that [he] could not present himself to authorities, as he was in a coma,” she said. “But he systematically violated the conditions of the probationary period before his hospitalization, in particular – on at least six occasions from January to August he failed to appear for registration.”

A number of Russian cities saw street protests last Saturday in solidarity with the imprisoned anti-corruption activist and footage of violent clashes were shared widely online. In Moscow alone, the country’s statutory prisons watchdog put the number of arrests at more than 600.

A number of Navalny’s associates, including his wife Yulia, were arrested for their role in the unrest, but almost all were released soon afterwards. On Wednesday, police then raided a number of properties of persons with links to the opposition figure, including his press secretary Kira Yarmysh and his main Moscow co-ordinator, Oleg Stepanov. Officers reportedly also raided the home he’d previously shared with Yulia.

READ MORE: Moscow kids arrested for attending Navalny protest will see their participation noted in school records, says education department

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