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'I Urge Everyone Not To Be Afraid': Aleksei Navalny's Courtroom Speech

Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny in the defendant dock during his February 2, 2021 hearing in the Moscow City Court
Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny in the defendant dock during his February 2, 2021 hearing in the Moscow City Court

On February 2, Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny addressed the Moscow court that would sentence him to prison for supposedly violating the terms of a suspended, 3 1/2-year sentence from 2014 for the alleged embezzlement of funds from the French cosmetics company Yves Rocher.

The politician reminded the court that the European Court of Human Rights, whose authority Russia recognizes, already has ruled that the case against him was fabricated and that he is innocent.

He urged the public not to be scared by his case or incarceration, but to continue to speak out against abuses of power.

The words, though, had no effect on the outcome: Judge Natalya Repnikova sentenced Navalny to 2 years and 8 months in a general prison colony; a reduction of 10 months for time already served under house arrest.

[Aleksei Navalny:] I would like for everyone again to pay attention. All the press that's writing
about this trial. [I want] everyone to pay attention to the fact that the crux of this matter has to do with putting me in prison for a case in which I was already recognized as innocent. And for a case that has already been recognized as fabricated.

This is not my opinion. Because if we open any textbook on criminal law -- I hope, Your Honor, that you have done this a few times in your life -- we'll see that the ECHR
(European Court of Human Rights) is part of Russia's judicial system since Russia is a member of the Council of Europe. And these decisions are obligatory [for Russia].

And I, having gone through all the necessary stages of the judicial procedure, turned to the European Court. The European Court reached a decision, in which it wrote in black and white that there isn't even proof of a crime. The case for which I'm here, for some reason, in this strange cage, is completely fabricated.

Not only that, the Russian Federation has generally recognized this [ECHR] decision. Halfway. Because they even paid me compensation for this case, thereby accepting the ECHR's decision.

Despite this, my brother spent 3 1/2 years in prison for this case, which, to repeat, was fabricated.

[There is a related] court decision, which is obligatory here on Russian territory. For this case, I spent a year under house arrest.

When my sentence, this suspended [sentence], ended, they arrested me a week before this,
and brought me here to you in the Simonovsky Court. And without a defense, having recruited some kind of appointed lawyer, they extended my suspended sentence for another year.

Let's do some math: In 2014, I was convicted and sentenced to 3 1/2 years. It's 2021 now, but, all the same, I'm still in court for this case. I've already been recognized as innocent,
and there's no proof of a crime in this case, and, yet, with the obstinacy of a maniac, our state demands that I be put in prison for this case.

Why this case?

In fact, there's already something. There has been no shortage of criminal cases against me, has there? A new one was opened just recently.

Nonetheless, somebody really wanted to make sure I wouldn't walk around as a free man in our territory after I returned. From the moment I crossed the [Russian] border, I ended up a prisoner.

And we know who ... We know why this happened.

The reason for all this is the hatred and fear of one man who lives in a bunker (Russian President Vladimir Putin). Because I mortally offended him just by surviving the attempt
on my life that he ordered.

[Judge Natalya Repnikova:] The prosecutor asks to make a remark to Aleksei Navalny.

[Navalny:] I don't need your remark! Your Honor, again, will this prosecutor now interfere with my talking about how I view everything that's going on?

[Judge Repnikova:] I want to direct [Mr. Navalny's] attention to the fact that we are considering the question of whether to cancel his suspended sentence.

[Navalny:] Yes.

[Judge Repnikova:]Any other, in your opinion, criminal cases are not being considered
during the current trial. The issue of canceling your suspended sentence, the Zamoskovoretsky Regional Court's sentence, is before us now. (Inaudible)

[Navalny:] This is directly related. I'm standing here in police custody while the National Guard has cordoned off half of Moscow precisely because one little man in a bunker is going mad. [He's going mad] because we demonstrated and proved that he isn't busy with geopolitics, but is holding meetings to decide how to steal underpants from opposition politicians and smear them with chemical weapons, trying to kill them.

What really matters is not how this trial will end for me, whether they'll put me in jail or not. In general, it isn't difficult to lock me up for one case or another.

What matters is that this is happening to scare a huge number of people.

This is how it works: They put one man in prison to make millions scared. We have 20 million people below the poverty line. We have tens of millions of people without the least prospects. We have tens of millions of people who relate exactly to what we're saying every day.

In Moscow, there's still a more or less [decent] life. But head out 100 kilometers, and things
there are just in a total mess. Our entire country is living in this total mess, without having the slightest prospects.

They earn 20,000 rubles ($263.49). And they all keep quiet, and they try to shut them up with precisely these show trials. They imprison this person here to scare millions. Someone goes out on the street [to protest], they imprison another five people to scare 15 million.

And the main thing that I want to say is that I very much hope that people won't see this trial as a signal that they should feel more afraid.

It's not true that this is a show of strength -- all of this, the National Guard, this [defendant's] cage. It's a show of weakness, just weakness.

You can't lock up millions and hundreds of thousands of people. And I very much hope that people will be more and more aware of this.

And when they're aware, a moment will come when all this will crumble. Because you won't put the whole country in prison. because all these people who have been deprived of prospects, deprived of a future, who live in the wealthiest country and receive nothing from the national wealth ... All the rest receive zero.

We're only growing by our number of billionaires. All the rest is declining, you understand?

I sit in my cell and hear reports about how butter has gotten more expensive,
macaroni and eggs have gotten more expensive.

This is 2021! A country that's an exporter of oil and gas, our entire country is talking about
how the price of macaroni has gone up. We can no longer live.

And these very people have been deprived of any prospects. These very people you're trying to scare.

I urge everyone not to be afraid.

All this power is based on ...

[Judge Repnikova:] (Inaudible) Let's get back to the case statement.

[Navalny:] I'm not the one, Your Honor, to return. I'm already right there. I'm right in the middle of this.

[Judge Repnikova:] You haven't said anything about the prosecutor's case documents.


[Navalny:] Maybe I'll finish speaking, Your Honor. You say that I haven't
said anything about the case.

All of this is the case statement. And everything that I say is how I relate to the case that you've built up.

Let me switch directly to the case statement. So, here you are: Such a thing happens
when lawlessness and arbitrariness are the essence of a political system. And this is awful.

But there's something even worse: when lawlessness and arbitrariness dress up in the uniform of a prosecutor or judge. And in this case, the duty of each person is not to obey those laws that are dressed up in these uniforms.

Even though behind you, inside of you, also are arbitrariness and lawlessness.

The duty of each person is not to obey you, not to obey such laws.

[Judge Repnikova:] (Inaudible) This isn't a rally.

[Navalny:] I urge absolutely everyone ....

This isn't a rally. This is my speech. I'll return to it, Your Honor.

Your Honor, don't worry.

[Judge Repnikova:] I will request you to return to our case.

[Navalny:] Everything's going to be completely fine.

I'll return to our case. That's exactly what I'm talking about.

[To unheard person:] Don't interrupt, please. One at a time.

[Judge Repnikova:] Let's not get into politics.


I ask you to express your opinion on the case that has gathered us all together here.

[Navalny:] I'm expressing my opinion.

[Judge Repnikova:] So, tell us your opinion about ...

[Navalny:] I have an opinion about this case. I'm telling it to you. I don't have another opinion.
Please, hear me out.

Again I want to say that when arbitrariness and lawlessness have put on your uniforms
and pretend to be the law, the duty of every honest person is not to obey you and to fight you all the way.

And I'll fight as best I can. I will continue to do this even though I'm now entirely under the control of people who love to smear things with chemical weapons.

My life probably isn't worth a penny. But still, even now as I stand here, I'm saying that I'll fight you, and I urge others not to be afraid of you, and to do everything for the law to prevail, and not the people who are dressed up [as prosecutors or judges].

I salute all those who are fighting and who are not afraid. All the honest people.

I salute and thank those who work in the Anti-Corruption Foundation, who are now under arrest.

I thank all honest people across the country who aren't afraid and who take to the streets because they have the same rights as you do. Because our country belongs to them as much as it does to you and everybody else.

We are citizens, too. And we demand proper justice, we demand to be taken seriously, the right to participate in elections and in the distribution of the national wealth.

Yes, we demand all of this.

And I want to say that there are many good things in Russia now, and the best are these
very people who are not afraid, who don't cast their eyes down at the table, and who will
never give up our country to a bunch of corrupt officials who have traded our motherland for their own palaces, vineyards, and aqua-discos.

(The judge attempts to interrupt Navalny.)

[Navalny:] I've already finished. My opinion is that I demand my immediate release
and the release of other prisoners. I do not acknowledge this charge. It is completely false and illegal. And I demand my immediate release. Thank you.

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