AMNESTY INT’L JUNKS NAVALNY’S ‘PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE’ STATUS
Amnesty International no longer considers jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny a "prisoner of conscience" due to past comments he made that qualify as advocacy of hatred, the group told Reuters.
Amnesty, however, still believes that Navalny should be freed from jail, that he has committed no crime and that he is being persecuted for his campaigning and outspoken criticism of President Vladimir Putin and his government, it said.
Navalny could not be reached for comment as he was in jail. His allies protested the move by Amnesty on Twitter. Alexander Golovach, a lawyer for Navalny's FBK anticorruption group, said he was renouncing an earlier "prisoner of conscience" status that Amnesty gave him in 2018 to protest.
Ivan Zhdanov, a Navalny ally, said: "the procedure for assigning and revoking Amnesty International status has proven extremely shameful."
The 44-year-old Russian opposition politician was flown to Germany last August to recover from a near-fatal poisoning in Siberia with what many Western nations said was a nerve agent.
He was arrested on his return to Russia last month and sentenced to jail for parole violations he called trumped-up. He is set to spend just over two-and-a-half years behind bars. The West has demanded his release; Russia says that is meddling.
"Amnesty International took an internal decision to stop referring to ... Navalny as a prisoner of conscience in relation to comments he made in the past," the group said in a statement sent to Reuters on Wednesday.
"Some of these comments, which Navalny has not publicly denounced, reach the threshold of advocacy of hatred, and this is at odds with Amnesty's definition of a prisoner of conscience," it added.