MOSCOW (AP / AFP / RTR) – The well-known anti-corruption institution FBK of detained Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is radical and therefore illegal. This is what a judge ruled in Russia. Prosecutors had urged action against Navalny’s important political network as the group was alleged to have planned a Western-backed uprising.
The organization was already expected to be categorized as extremist. FBK was already dissolved recently, in order to prevent the prosecution of employees. The FBK has published regularly on (alleged) corruption at all levels of government. The lawsuit against the foundation was heard behind closed doors.
The court also ruled that Navalny’s network of regional political offices is extremist. This network dissolved itself in April, before it was placed on the list of organizations banned by the Russian Financial Supervisory Authority. Not all offices are closed, but they will not operate under the Navalni flag. In many cases they continue as independent organizations with their leaders.
Navalny denies all charges and sees the actions against him and his organizations as attempts by the Russian rulers to eliminate the opposition. After the judge’s ruling, he announced on social media that he would not “withdraw” and would like to continue fighting corruption. The opposition leader is serving a 2.5-year prison sentence for a previous fraud conviction he also said was politically motivated.
Observers believe that the classification of organizations as extremist has a political background. In the run-up to parliamentary elections in September, Parliament passed a law banning members and sponsors of groups identified as extremist from participating in the polls. This is to prevent the opposition from getting a chance to defeat the now very unpopular ruling United Russia party.
The law excludes not only important figures within Navalny’s organizations from participating in the elections, but also, for example, citizens who have expressed their support for the FBK in the past by donating a small amount. Navalny’s organizations in Russia now enjoy the same status as the Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Qaeda, among others.
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