Russian opponent Alexei Navalni, imprisoned since January, denounced Thursday that officials at the penal colony where he is being held had denied him access to adequate medical treatment and adopted a practice he compared to torture.
The allegations were made in two appeals to authorities that Navalni referred to his lawyers during a visit by defenders to the IK-2 correctional penal colony, 100 km from Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s main opponent said he was deprived of sleep by guards who woke him up every hour at night, which he compared to torture. Prison officials did not deny that the practice was being adopted, but said it was necessary because there was a risk of escape.
In his appeals, the 44-year-old activist also said prison officials refused his request for a civilian doctor’s visit last month, despite excruciating pain in his back and numbness in his leg.
“I consider that the deterioration of my health is a direct consequence of the actions and inactions of the employees of the federal prison administration, deliberately seeking to deny me adequate medical care and to deteriorate my health,” he wrote.
The Federal Prison Service said earlier Thursday that the opponent had been examined on Wednesday (24) and his health was stable and satisfactory.
His lawyers, whose client access was denied on Wednesday, disputed the official version, saying Navalni was in terrible condition and urgently needed to see a doctor outside the prison for treatment.
The activist’s wife, Iulia Navalnaia, said her husband’s situation in prison was a revenge for his opposition activities. “I demand that Alexei be given the opportunity to be treated by doctors he trusts,” she wrote on Instagram.
Navalni said he was only given pills and cream containing ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug normally used for pain, which he said was not enough.
The opponent received the support of nearly 160 cultural figures, who published an open letter to the authorities on Thursday asking for better conditions.
The Kremlin said it was not monitoring the activist’s health status, saying the issue was up to the prison authorities.
Also this month, his arrest sparked another controversy. About ten days ago, the opponent’s lawyers said he had been transferred from the penal colony where he had been held since February and that his supporters did not know his whereabouts.
Navalni was arrested in January on his return to Russia, after several months in Germany, where he was recovering from poisoning for which he blames the Russian authorities. He is formally accused of violating the conditions of his probation by leaving the country, even though the discharge was made for medical reasons – he was in a coma.
The opponent received a commutation sentence for commuted fraud in 2014, in an action he describes as judicial harassment. Although nominally independent, the Russian judiciary is aligned with the Kremlin.
The country’s justice system upheld the activist’s conviction last month. In total, he was sentenced to three and a half years in prison, of which he has already served ten months at home.
Various Western countries, in addition to the European Court of Human Rights, have called on Russia to release Navalni, a reaction Moscow has called unacceptable interference in its internal affairs.
The United States has also announced sanctions, including a ban on travel to the United States and a freeze on assets abroad, against officials accused of plotting the activist’s arrest.
The detention of Navalni also provoked internal reactions, with large protests, to which the authorities responded with more than 11,000 arrests.
Opponent’s allies on Tuesday (23) announced their plans for what they hope will be the largest anti-Kremlin protest in modern Russian history for the months to come. Authorities said such acts were illegal.