:: Putin critic ‘being sleep deprived and has no access to trusted doctor’
Alexei Navalny, the prominent opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is incarcerated in conditions that amount to torture and may slowly be killing him, human rights group Amnesty International said yesterday.
Amnesty International said Mr Navalny, who last year was poisoned with a military grade nerve agent, was now being subjected to sleep deprivation and did not have access to a doctor he could trust in jail.
“Russia, the Russian authorities, may be placing him into a situation of a slow death and seeking to hide what is happening to him,” Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general, told Reuters ahead of publication of the group’s annual report.
“Clearly the Russian authorities are violating his rights. We have to do more,” she said. “(They) have already attempted to kill him, they are now detaining him, and imposing prison conditions, that amount to torture.”
Mr Navalny went on a hunger strike last week in a bid to force the prison holding him outside Moscow to provide him with proper medical care for what he said was acute pain in his back and legs.
The Kremlin has declined to comment on his health, saying it is a matter for the federal penitentiary service. The prison service last week said the 44-year-old was receiving all necessary treatment.
Mr Navalny was jailed in February for two and a half years for parole violations that he called politically motivated.
Moscow, which has cast doubt over his poisoning, paints Mr Navalny as a Western-backed troublemaker bent on destabilising Russia.
Ms Callamard said Mr Navalny’s ill-treatment came at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic had exacerbated inequalities and increased state-sponsored repression in some countries.
Certain governments had instrumentalised the pandemic against minority groups to repress dissent and human rights, while in other countries there had been a near-normalisation of emergency measures that restricted civil liberties, she added.
“Covid has amplified oppression,” Ms Callamard said.
Mr Navalny yesterday tested negative for the coronavirus, his lawyer Olga Mikhailova said adding that he has taken a second test.
Supporters of Mr Navalny were detained on Tuesday outside a penal colony east of Moscow where the Kremlin critic is currently serving time.
Doctors from the Navalny-backed Alliance of Doctors union and the politician’s supporters gathered in front of the prison, but authorities denied their demand for access to him.
Local police said they detained nine people who allegedly “breached public order”. They included Mr Navalny’s doctor and leader of the Alliance of Doctors, Dr Anastasia Vasilyeva, and several journalists.
He was arrested in January upon returning to Moscow from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian authorities have rejected the accusation.
A court ordered Mr Navalny in February to serve two and a half years in prison for violating the terms of his probation, including when he was convalescing in Germany, from a 2014 embezzlement conviction.