Amnesty International says Russia could slowly kill Navalny

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Hearing of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on considering an appeal against a previous court decision to convert his suspended sentence into a real prison sentence

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PARIS (Reuters) – Alexei Navalny, the prominent opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is detained in conditions equivalent to torture and potentially killing him slowly, human rights group Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

Amnesty International said Navalny, who was poisoned with a military grade nerve agent last year, is now sleep deprived and has no access to a doctor he can trust in prison.

“Russia, the Russian authorities, could put him in a slow death situation and try to hide what is happening to him,” Amnesty International’s general secretary Agnes Callamard told Reuters ahead of the group’s annual report.

“Obviously the Russian authorities are violating his rights. We have to do more,” she said. “(They) have already tried to kill him, they are now holding him and imposing conditions equivalent to torture.”

Navalny went on hunger strike last week to force the prison that was holding him outside Moscow to provide adequate care for him in what he described as acute back and leg pain.

The Kremlin has refused to comment on his health as it is a matter for the federal prison service. The correctional service said last week that the 44-year-old had received all of the necessary treatments.

Navalny was jailed for two and a half years in February for parole violations, which he described as politically motivated. Moscow, which casts doubt on its poisoning, paints Navalny as a Western-backed troublemaker who wants to destabilize Russia.

Callamard said Navalny’s mistreatment came at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic had exacerbated inequalities and increased government-sponsored repression in some countries.

Some governments had instrumentalized the pandemic against minority groups to suppress dissent and human rights, while in other countries the emergency measures that restricted civil liberties had almost been normalized, she added.

“COVID has stepped up the suppression,” Callamard said.

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