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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government is making its toughest efforts yet to crush the opposition led by imprisoned dissident Alexei Navalny.
Russian officials will conduct a closed-door hearing using state-secret evidence on Monday that could declare Navalny’s political group and Anti-Corruption Foundation extremist organizations, according to reports out of Moscow.
If prosecutors win the arguments, Navalny’s and his supporters could be placed on the same legal footing as Islamic extremist groups such as al Qaeda in the eyes of the Russian government.
Just wearing a short with Navalny’s slogan, “Russia will he happy” could result in jail time.
The apparent show trial comes as Navalny and his supporters have been under ever-increasing pressure
Police this week raided Navalny’s offices and arrested several of his key allies. Russian authorities also arrested 1,700 Navalny supporters who rallied across the nation in protest of Navalny’s worsening health in prison and the worsening situation in Ukraine.
“This is one of the last gasps of a free Russia, as many are saying. We came out for Alexei … against a war in Ukraine and the wild propaganda,” said Marina, a student at the Moscow protest.
Putin on the same day issued a dire warning to Western leaders as tensions continue to mount over Ukraine and his efforts to crush opposition.
Navalny’s health has deteriorated during the course of a hunger strike he began more than three weeks ago. He announced via Instagram on Friday that he was ending his 24-day hunger strike at the advice of doctors.
But supporters say he’s also suffering mistreatment, including physical beatings, from Russian prison guards.
“The Russian authorities cannot escape the global scrutiny that their appalling treatment of Alexei Navalny has invited,” Amnesty International said in a statement.
The anti-corruption activist, who wields influence through his large social media followings, was hospitalized last summer after allegedly being poisoned with nerve gas by the Russian government. He has been in prison since February.
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