Putin critic Alexei Navalny unsuccessfully challenges treatment in Russia prison system News
Evgeny Feldman, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Putin critic Alexei Navalny unsuccessfully challenges treatment in Russia prison system

Alexei Navalny brought claims against the Russian Ministry of Justice for his treatment in a Siberian prison when he appeared in court via video link, on Thursday.

He appeared from a remote Siberian Penal Colony which he had recently been transferred to. During this transfer, he went “missing” within the penal system for nearly three weeks after he failed to appear for a video hearing in early December.

The hearing was held in a court in the Russian city of Kovrov. Navalny argued for longer meal breaks than the current 10 minutes he is being allowed and more access to religious materials. During the hearing, Navalny claimed that he was experiencing what he described as “brutal conditions” in the prison facility. To express these conditions he shared his experience:

The punishment cell is often a very cold place. Do you know why people choose a newspaper there? To cover themselves. Because with a newspaper, I can tell you judges that it is a much warmer place to sleep for example, than without one. And so, you need a newspaper so as to not freeze.

After the hearing, the judge ruled against him and sided with prison officials.

Human rights organizations have been condemning the treatment of Navalny within the Russian penal system since his arrest in 2021.

In late December 2022, Navalny began to denounce his treatment within the system, announcing on X (formerly known as Twitter) that he was experiencing back pain due to being locked in a punishment cell with no level of comfort. Thursday’s hearing was for just one of the many lawsuits he has filed against the penal colony, some of which have already been unsuccessful.

During his stay in Prison Colony No.6 before his most recent transfer, he spent months in isolation. He was repeatedly placed in a small punishment cell over alleged minor infractions, such as buttoning his prison uniform wrong. He also expressed that he was denied such things as; additional ordered food, visits from his relatives and writing supplies.

Navalny, a political opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was sentenced in 2023 to 19 years in prison on extremism charges. These charges are related to his campaigns against official corruption, his organization of major anti-Kremlin protests and his run for public office. This is in addition to a sentence of three-and-a-half years he has been serving for violating his probation on a fraud case and on top of another nine-year sentence stemming from another fraud case. He will have to complete these two sentences before serving his latest sentence of 19 years.

Many human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch have condemned this latest sentence as politically motivated stating, “The [verdict] against Navalny… [is] a travesty of justice, and the ongoing persecution of other peaceful activists is a disgraceful show of cowardice.”