Putin’s biggest foe takes on Kremlin in European court

rus

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Wednesday appeared at a hearing at the European Court of Human Rights into whether Russian authorities violated his rights through numerous arrests.

The court ruled last year that seven of those arrests were unlawful and ordered Russia to pay 63,000 euros (about $67,000) in compensation, but the Russian government appealed.

Proving that Russian authorities had political motives in arresting him and not allowing his rallies to go ahead would set an important precedent for activists across Russia, Navalny told reporters outside the courtroom in the French city of Strasbourg Wednesday.

“This case is important not only for me but also for other people in Russia, especially in the regions because they are stripped of the freedom of assembly,” he said. “If the European Court for Human Rights sees political motives in those cases – and I think we have presented enough evidence for this today – it will make an important precedent in Russia.”

A final ruling is expected at a later date.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most serious political foe, Navalny wants to mount a boycott of the March presidential elections after he was barred from running.

Navalny has faced fraud charges viewed as political retribution for investigating corruption and leading protests. A Moscow court this week ordered the closure of a foundation that he used for his failed election campaign.

Navalny mounted a sprawling grass-roots presidential campaign before he was officially barred from running in December. Navalny’s boycott campaign might cut the voter turnout, which would be an embarrassment for the Kremlin.

The Kremlin critic told CBSN On Assignment last year that he believed there was a 50 percent chance he will end up dead for speaking out against Putin — a fate that has befallen many of the Kremlin’s enemies in recent years.

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