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Kremlin critic Navalny implores court to halt 'torture' checks in prison

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By Euronews with AP
FILE - In this Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021 photo, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny looks at photographers standing in the Babuskinsky District Court in Moscow, Russia
FILE - In this Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021 photo, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny looks at photographers standing in the Babuskinsky District Court in Moscow, Russia   -   Copyright  Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP
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Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny implored a Russian court on Monday to halt the hourly nighttime checks he says he's been subjected to in prison, amounting them to torture.

In a video appearance from his penal colony, Navalny argued he had done nothing that would warrant his designation as a flight risk that has resulted in checks.

“I just want them to stop coming to me and waking me up at nighttime,” he told the judge.

“What did I do: Did I climb the fence? Did I dig up an underpass? Or was I wringing a pistol from someone? Just explain why they named me a flight risk!"

He argued the hourly nighttime checks “effectively amount to torture”, telling the judge that “you would go mad in a week” if subjected to such treatment.

Navalny was arrested in January upon his return from Germany, where he had spent five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin.

Russian authorities have rejected the claim.

The Kremlin opponent was sentenced to two and half year in prison for violating terms of a suspended sentence stemming from a previous conviction, which he claims were politically motivated.

Hunger strike

He went on a 24-day hunger strike in prison to protest the lack of medical attention for severe back pain and numbness in his legs.

Navalny ended the strike last month after getting the medical care he demanded.

While he still was on hunger strike, Navalny was moved from a penal colony east of Moscow to the hospital ward of another prison in Vladimir, a city 180 kilometres east of the capital.

The nighttime checks have continued in Vladimir, although they were less intrusive, Navalny has said.

All eyes on September election

Russian MPs voted earlier this month to pass the first reading of a bill that would ban members of “extremist” organisations from elections - a move that could pave the way to prevent allies of Navalny from standing for office.

The opposition leader’s political organisation is currently facing a court case which authorities hope will classify it as “extremist”.

The moves come just months ahead of parliamentary elections in September.