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Russian court rejects legal claim by Alexei Navalny’s mother over poor medical treatment in prison

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, center left, and his mother-in-law Alla Abrosimova visit his grave at the Borisovskoye Cemetery, in Moscow (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, center left, and his mother-in-law Alla Abrosimova visit his grave at the Borisovskoye Cemetery, in Moscow (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Russian authorities have dismissed a lawsuit from the mother of late opposition leader Alexei Navalny alleging her son was not given proper medical care in prison.

Mr Navalny’s wife Yulia Navalnaya claimed the refusal stemmed from the Kremlin’s desire to hide what she believes is incriminating footage of his death.

His mother Lyudmila Navalnaya, who the day after her son’s death travelled to the Arctic Circle penal colony where he was being held, was told her lawsuit had been dismissed because she was not the allegedly wronged party.

It was part of yet another attempt by 69 year-old Ms Navalnaya to find out about her son’s death and yet another circumvention by the Russian authorities presiding over his case.

Mr Navalny died on 16 February in what his family and allies have said was a state-sponsored murder. The Kremlin maintains he died of natural causes.

Their conclusion came after the Investigative Committee refused to hand over his body to Ms Navalnaya for several days after his death while they were allegedly conducting tests. Mr Navalny’s team said they were using this time to cover up traces of their murder.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, seen here via a video link from inside prison, filed multiple lawsuits alleging mistreatment, according to his allies (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, seen here via a video link from inside prison, filed multiple lawsuits alleging mistreatment, according to his allies (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

IMr Navalny’s team has leaked documents purportedly from the Labytnangi court, near his former penal colony, that said the only person able to file the lawsuit alleging his mistreatment in prison was the opposition figure himself.

“The court wrote that only Alexei Navalny can be a plaintiff in such a claim,” wrote Ivan Zhdanov, a former aide. “I wonder how?”

While Russian penal colonies are known for their poor conditions, political prisoners, as Mr Navalny was, are often further stripped of basic human rights such as adequate medical care, according to Grigory Vaypan, a senior human rights lawyer at Memorial, Russia’s oldest civil rights group.

Whether or not Mr Navalny was killed on 16 February, in a single act or due to years of mistreatment in prison, remains unclear.

Mr Navalny’s widow Yulia Navalnaya (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Mr Navalny’s widow Yulia Navalnaya (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Mr Zhdanov said Mr Navalny had filed multiple lawsuits against the several colonies he had been held in since his arrest in January 2020 for their failure to provide medical care, but the claims were denied.

“Now he was killed, the claim is being denied to his relatives with mocking wording,” he said.

Mr Navalny’s widow suggested that the decision to refuse a hearing was another attempt by the authorities to prevent incriminating evidence coming to light.

“The court dismissed the case. There is only one reason,” she said. “At the trial they had to provide documents and videos about what happened on 16 February.”

Maria Pevchikh, head of investigations, suggested those documents and videos would illustrate the “violent death” of Mr Navalny perpetrated by the prison authorities.

“There is not a single explanation for this except that they are hiding the circumstances of Alexei’s death,” she said. “Violent death. Covering their tracks.”