The main lawyer defending Alexei Navalni, 44, the main name of the opposition to President Vladimir Putin, was arrested on Friday (30), a few days after the Russian courts ordered the suspension of the activities of organizations linked to Nalavni, on accusations of extremism.
Ivan Pavlov was arrested after agents from the FSB (Federal Security Service, successor to the KGB) broke into his hotel room in Moscow, people familiar with the matter told the New York Times.
The lawyer was charged with revealing details of a police investigation unrelated to Navalni, but was later released by a judge, despite being banned from using the internet or the phone.
According to sources heard by the American publication, government agents raided the offices of its defense group in St. Petersburg, Team 29, named after the article of the Russian Constitution which guarantees freedom of thought and d ‘expression.
Pavlov is a well-known human rights lawyer in Russia and the group’s clients include Ivan Safronov, a former journalist accused of spying for NATO (Western military alliance). Team 29 told the NYT that Pavlov is under investigation for allegedly revealing confidential details of the Safronov case to the media.
His arrest represents the escalation of the Kremlin’s campaign to quell opposition in the country, which has raised concerns for the activist community.
“Ivan’s arrest is linked to his professional activity,” a group of lawyers said in an open letter on Friday. “We believe that these actions of the security forces are aimed exclusively at frightening Ivan and his colleagues in order to force them to reject an active position in the defense of their clients.”
On Monday (26), the court ordered the suspension of the activities of organizations linked to Navalni – the Russian judiciary is nominally independent, but decisions are often in line with the interests of the Kremlin.
The judicial measure is linked to a process in which prosecutors seek the final ban of the groups, on charges of extremism. In the event of conviction, organizations will be prohibited from participating in elections, organizing demonstrations or posting any content on the Internet.
The term “extremism” has a very broad definition in Russian law and allows authorities to fight opposition organizations, racist or terrorist factions, as well as religious groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Friday’s arrest also comes just four days after Pavlov spoke out on behalf of Navalni, who made his first video appearance on Thursday since a hunger strike ended last week after 24 days.
The activist, whose statements and network of supporters caused headaches in the Kremlin, lost 22 kg during this period, according to his defense. He participated by video in a hearing in the case where he is accused of defaming a Russian veteran of World War II.
Navalni has been in jail since January, officially accused of violating his probation terms by leaving the country, even though the release was for medical reasons – he was in a coma.
In February, however, he was found guilty of defaming a Russian serviceman who fought in World War II and who participated in a video supporting constitutional reforms last year – a referendum authorized the change that resulted in gave Putin the right to run for two more. mandates in the Kremlin and remain in power until 2036.