Federal Government Human Rights Commissioner Markus Löning today (24 April) commented as follows on the trial of Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny:
I view the opening of criminal proceedings against Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny with grave concern. His trial shows what can await critical and independently minded people in Russia. Rather than seek dialogue, the state prefers to intimidate them and portray them as criminals.
By rights, anti corruption blogger Navalny should be a natural ally of the government in its campaign against corruption and nepotism. The fact that he has been put on trial shows how little the state really cares about curbing corruption. This trial is bad both for civil rights in Russia and for the investment climate there.
I call on the Russian authorities to drop the charges against Mr Navalny immediately.
Alexei Navalny, one of the organizers of the mass protests against President Vladimir Putin, is accused of colluding with a private company to steal 10,000 cubic metres of timber from the Kirov Region government, cheating the public purse of some 16 million roubles (around 500,000 euros). Government critics see the trial as politically motivated. If convicted, Navalny could face up to ten years in a prison camp.