Russian authorities have taken an unprecedented step of putting their most outspoken critic Alexei Navalny on trial in a police station, with the opposition politician’s lawyers handed documents one minute before the start of proceedings.
Mr Navalny was arrested in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on Sunday evening, after returning to Russia for the first time since surviving a nerve agent attack in August. He was led away by border officials, after which he disappeared, and was denied access to lawyers right up to the start of his improvised trial.
In a video released by his press officer, Mr Navalny said he had no idea why the court hearing was taking place in a police station.
“We’ve seen justice been mocked in all kinds of ways before … but this is the highest degree of lawlessness,” he said. “Grandad sitting in his bunker is so afraid that he has demonstratively thrown all legal process on the tip.”
According to the court documents, Mr Navalny is being tried for allegedly missing parole meetings after being evacuated for treatment in Germany. The parole relates to a suspended sentence handed down in the 2014 “Yves Rocher” case, subsequently dismissed as politically motivated by the European Court of Human Rights.
Monday’s process made the violations of that trial look insignificant. No independent journalists were allowed into the court, contrary to Russian law. Journalists from state media were, however, present in the makeshift courtroom alongside masked officers — all apparently warned about the trial well in advance of Mr Navalny’s own lawyers.
The developments continued the Kremlin’s unconventional handling of their most prominent enemy. On Sunday, after preparing the scheduled landing airport for war — complete with riot police and guard dogs — authorities at last minute rerouted his plane to another airport.