08/04/2021, 10.14
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Moscow convicts Navalist Ljubov Sobol over 'health and safety violation'

by Vladimir Rozanskij

She will have to remain under house arrest for one year. Anti-Covid regulations used to crack down on supporters of Aleksej Naval'nyj. Facial recognition systems to detect violators in public processions. Considered "extremists", Navalnists are excluded from the upcoming elections.



Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Preobraženskij court in Moscow yesterday sentenced Ljubov Sobol to one and a half years of detention in her home. The lawyer was a leader of the Fund for the Fight against Corruption (FBK), the movement created by Aleksej Naval'nyj. The government shut down the Fund, judged "an extremist organization", a few months ago. Sobol will remain under partial house arrest: she will not be able to leave her home between 10pm and 6am, nor will she be able to participate in any public demonstration or leave the capital's borders.

As with eight other navalists, the authorities have applied the article on emergency health and safety norms to Sobol. In Russia it is known as the "health and safety affair": a mechanism devised to block the activities of the main supporters of the blogger locked up in the Vladimir lager. The measure refers mainly to last January's protests in support of Naval'nyj.

Together with Sobol, Oleg Naval'nyj,  the brother of Putin's opponent and other leaders of the FBK are involved in the sanitary affair: Kira Jarmiš, Nikolaj Ljaskin, Anastasia Vasileva and Oleg Stepanov. Municipal deputies Dmitry Baranovsky and Liusja Stein, and Maria Alekhina of the music band Pussy Riot have also been targeted. Previously, municipal deputy Konstantin Jankauskas had been indicted for the same crimes. He had tweeted the slogan "One for all and all for one!", judged an incitement to participate in the unauthorized rallies.

Another victim of the health deal is 22-year-old Moscow resident Dani Akel Tammam, who had participated in the protest actions "under the influence of social appeals, despite being sick with coronavirus". The young man assures that he took to the streets with the medical certificate in his hand that attested his negativity after the infection, and that he decided to demonstrate out of his personal conviction, not because of external influences. "For recognizing his own guilt," in his case the court reduced the sentence to a fine of 100 thousand rubles (about 1,160 euros).

It was precisely the presence of people believed to be infected with coronavirus during the January 23 and 31 demonstrations that formed the basis of the charges. The investigators verified at length the images of the processions, identifying those infected with Covid-19 through facial recognition systems, as happened with Akel Tammam. The court instructed the deputy director of the Office of Epidemiological Surveillance, Daria Vasilevskaya, who pointed to protesters who were not in compliance with the pandemic regulations.

The investigation lasted six months, and all sessions of the court were held behind closed doors, and closed to press. The news spread on the websites of the now banned FBK members themselves. In the meantime, Sobol herself and other defendants tried to run in the State Duma parliamentary elections, which will take place on September 19. Sobol then decided to withdraw her candidacy due to "the impossibility of guaranteeing the security of volunteers, collaborators and financiers" who supported her campaign: all their personal data were used by state bodies.

Some, like Oleg Stepanov, carried on their campaign from house arrest. The electoral committee at first accepted his documents, but then excluded him for "participation in extremist movements," as did several other navalnists. This rejection is expected to become final on August 4, after the appeal requested by Stepanov and other candidates.

The Navalnists are relying on "useful vote" tactics, trying to support candidates from "non-Putin" parties: communists, liberal-nationalists and liberals, as well as those from various other minor lists. In order to confuse the voters, the regime's propaganda machine tries to oppose the oppositions by nominating various exponents of alternative or "civic" lists, which only in appearance oppose power.

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