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On eve of protests planned in support of detained opposition leader Alexey Navlany, Russian authorities have reportedly swung into action. The Human Rights Watch alleged that the authorities are harassing, intimidating, and detaining activists and students who planned to take part in the protests on Saturday planned for January 23, 2021 in solidarity with the detained leader. The HRW also stated that Russian authorities ordered social media companies to take down all posts calling for people to participate in protests, threatening hefty fines for failure to comply.
The authorities should cease these unlawful attacks on freedom of expression and instead focus on ensuring safety measures to protect those who wish to assemble peacefully, maintained the HRW press statement.
“In the past year Russian authorities have effectively banned all peaceful protest by the political opposition and prosecuted anyone who has refused to comply,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “People have every right to peacefully protest injustices, including in Navalny’s case, through free speech and peaceful assemblies, and the authorities have an obligation to allow them to safely do so.”
Navalny was arrested immediately upon his return to Russia on January 17, after medical treatment in Germany for a near-fatal poisoning. At an extraordinary hearing at a police station, a judge authorized his detention for 30 days during which his suspended sentence could be revoked and replaced by prison time, allegedly for parole violations. Several prominent lawyers condemned the ruling as unlawful. The authorities put Navalny on a wanted list for failure to report to a parole officer while he was in Germany one day before his parole period expired.
In a video address recorded at the police station, Navalny called on his supporters to take to the streets to protest. Soon thereafter, his team called for coordinated protests on January 23.