Back In Court, Navalny Tells Russian Judge To 'Stop Disgracing Yourself'
By RFE/RL February 12, 2021
A court appearance by jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny has resumed with a testy exchange with the judge in a slander case involving a World War II veteran, resuming a trial that was interrupted last week.
The anti-corruption campaigner has described the slander case as a fabricated Kremlin public-relations campaign meant to harass and discredit him.
Navalny is accused of slandering a World War II veteran who took part in the promotional video in support of last year's constitutional amendments that cleared the way for President Vladimir Putin to run for two more terms in office after 2024, if he wants.
As the process resumed on February 12, Navalny and his lawyers expressed frustration that while filming was prohibited at the hearing, some national media outlets received video feeds taken from the courtroom.
"Let's ask a normal journalist if any of them received the video as well," Navalny said.
"You don't have a right to ask questions," the judge responded.
"I am very frustrated and want you to pay attention to the situation that every time a witness is unable to answer my questions, you stop the hearing and let the witness leave the courtroom so that he's instructed outside what to say and how to answer my questions," Navalny fired back.
He accused the judge of having a "poor knowledge of the Criminal Code" and "speaking like a parrot," according to a TV Dozhd account retweeted to Navalny's Twitter feed.
"I believe that you need to stop disgracing yourself and arranging a political theater, and take some courses," Navalny was quoted as saying.
The trial centers on a social-media post from June in which Navalny, one of Putin's most vocal critics, described those in the video as "traitors," "people with no conscience," and "corrupt lackeys."
Russia's Investigative Committee argues the comments contained "deliberately false information denigrating the honor and dignity" of the World War II veteran.
If convicted, Navalny faces a fine, community service, or jail time.
The trial was interrupted last week after the plaintiff, Ignat Artyomenko, said he was feeling ill and was taken away by ambulance.
Before he was rushed away, the 94-year-old veteran said he wanted a public apology from Navalny, who said he believed that the elderly man was being used "like a doll on a chain."
Navalny also suggested Artyomenko, who attended the proceedings by video from his home, was mentally unable to follow the trial.
"You have perverted criminal law, and now you are using Artyomenko to defend the thief Putin and his friends with [Artyomenko's] medals," Navalny told the court.
The trial comes after the Kremlin critic on February 2 was ordered to serve 2 years and 8 months in prison for violating the terms of probation imposed from a widely criticized 2014 embezzlement case.
Navalny could not report to parole officers because he was recovering from a coma in Germany after being poisoned with a nerve-agent in Siberia last August, in an attack he blames on Putin and his security agents. The Kremlin dismisses the allegations.
Navalny was immediately arrested upon his return to Russia in January, triggering nationwide protests and a crackdown on his allies and supporters.
Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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