The jailed opposition leader’s anti-corruption foundation, the network of regional offices are “extremist” groups, prosecutors told a court.
State prosecutors in Russia have asked a court to label groups linked to jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny as “extremist organizations,” a move that would ban them and expose activists to long prison terms.
Friday’s decision, if approved, would mark one of the most serious measures taken by authorities to date to target the network of groups set up by the staunch critic of President Vladimir Putin who is on hunger strike. while serving a sentence of two and a half years in prison. term.
Russia’s list of “extremist organizations” currently includes 33 entities, including the armed group ISIS (ISIS), the Taliban and Jehovah’s Witnesses. The presence of these groups is prohibited in Russia and their participation can lead to long prison terms.
Those caught in the process of organizing the activity of such groups can be imprisoned for up to 10 years, those who participate can be held criminally responsible and the groups themselves are banned from any banking activity.
The Moscow prosecutor said he decided to appeal to court after studying the Navalny Anti-Corruption Foundation and the campaign groups he set up in parts of the country.
“Under the guise of liberal slogans, these organizations are committed to creating the conditions to destabilize the social and socio-political situation,” the prosecutor said in a statement.
“In fact, the purpose of their activity is to create the conditions to change the basis of the constitutional order, including using a ‘color revolution’ scenario,” he said.
An outspoken critic of Putin for years, Navalny has staged street protests across the country and has carved out a following online with investigations alleging corruption by senior Russian officials.
The 44-year-old, who failed to run for office against Putin in 2018, was jailed in February for parole violations he said were trumped up.
Navalny was arrested at the border on his way back to Russia from Germany where he was recovering from poisoning with a nerve agent.
Most of his most prominent allies are either abroad or in Russia and face charges of violations linked to a series of demonstrations staged to protest his imprisonment.
Separately, on Friday a court sentenced a cameraman who worked for Navalny’s team of activists to two years in prison for inciting “extremism”.
The charge concerned an anti-government tweet he wrote after a Russian journalist’s self-immolation.
Navalny’s allies have promised to continue their work.
“Putin has just announced a large-scale mass political crackdown in Russia,” Leonid Volkov, key aide and head of Navalny’s regional network, wrote on Twitter shortly after prosecutors announced.
In a statement on Facebook, Volkov and FBK director Ivan Zhdanov said they had no doubts about the decision a “Putin court” would make, but said they would continue their work ” peacefully, publicly and effectively ”.