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Russia: Aleksei Navalny facing 'deeply disturbing' treatment in prison, according to reports

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Reports and photos reveal cruel treatment of the prominent Russian political activist

Navalny’s health and wellbeing are at grave risk

Responding to disturbing reports and photos of prominent Russian political activist Aleksei Navalny, who is serving a nine-year prison sentence on trumped-up charges of fraud, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said: 

“We have received deeply disturbing information about Aleksei Navalny’s increasingly harsh treatment in the strict regime penal colony where he is currently locked up.

“This includes severe penalties for purported offences, and repeated efforts to ostracise him from other prisoners who are reportedly not allowed to speak with or even look at him.

“In gross violation of his rights as well as Russia’s own laws, Aleksei Navalny is not allowed confidential meetings with his lawyer. His health and wellbeing are at grave risk, and this is tantamount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

“Russian prison authorities are using the cruel methods they have been refining for years to try and break the spirit of Aleksei Navalny by making his existence in the penal colony unbearable, humiliating and dehumanising.

“We demand the immediate and unconditional release of prisoner of conscience Aleksei Navalny, and accountability for all those who are responsible for his unlawful imprisonment and ill-treatment.” 

Cruel conditions

Aleksei Navalny was transferred from penal colony IK-5 (Pokrov, Vladimir region) to another colony, with a stricter security regime, IK-6 (Melekhovo, Vladimir region) on 14 June, where his treatment by the administration and colony guards has become harsher, according to his lawyers.  

Since 15 August, the colony administration has placed Aleksei Navalny in a punishment cell (shtrafnoy izolyator, or SHIZO, in Russian) four times, either citing minor infringements of prison rules, such as an unbuttoned button on his prison shirt or giving no explanation at all.

While in SHIZO, Aleksei Navalny is denied family visits, parcels and letters. The prisoner of conscience has also reportedly been labelled a “malicious violator” of the penal colony’s regime and put in “strict conditions of detention.” This means, among other things, that he is allowed only four visits by relatives per year instead of six. 

In addition to the disciplinary measures against Aleksei Navalny, the colony’s administration told him that they were stripping him of his right to have confidential communication with his lawyer. As a result, Aleksei Navalny must now communicate with his lawyer across an opaque plastic sheet, making it impossible for them to exchange or examine any documents. 

Aleksei Navalny’s communication with other prisoners has reportedly been severely restricted: other prisoners are allegedly forbidden from talking to or even looking at him. According to reports from his colleagues and a Russian human rights activist, when Navalny passes by, an alarm is rung, instructing other prisoners to either turn away from him or move away from the windows. 

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