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Russia’s highest court quashes Navalny’s lawsuit over depriving him of pen and paper in prison

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a lawsuit by imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny contesting prison regulations that allow prison officials to deprive him of stationery and pens.

Navalny is serving a nine-year sentence for fraud and contempt of court in a maximum security penal colony in Melekhovo 250 kilometers (150 miles) east of Moscow. This week, another trial against the Kremlin’s archfoe began right there in the penal colony on charges of extremism. If convicted, Navalny will remain behind bars for at least two more decades.

In the lawsuit considered by the Supreme Court on Thursday, Navalny complained that prison officials in the restricted housing unit, where he is held in isolation, no longer gave him a pen and paper.

“Some are being given a pen and paper for an hour. In some places, for 15 minutes, and a convict needs a week to finish a letter. In my case, the time for writing materials was removed from my schedule entirely. How come? The prison chief decided so, that’s how,” Navalny wrote in a typically sardonic social media post on the eve of the hearing.

The complaint is one of many the 47-year-old politician has filed against prison officials, alleging multiple violations of his rights as a convict. All of his lawsuits and petitions have been rejected by Russian courts.

Navalny appeared at the Supreme Court hearing via video link from the Melekhovo colony. During the hearing, Russian authorities argued that there was nothing wrong with prison regulations and that Navalny should be given a pen and paper whenever he asked for them, if he was not required to do something else at that time.

Navalny’s arguments that it doesn’t work that way in his prison were brushed off, and the court quashed his lawsuit.

Graphic novels are displayed for sale at a bookstore in New York City on Sunday, October 8, 2023. On Tuesday, the Commerce Department releases U.S. retail sales data for September. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)
Graphic novels are displayed for sale at a bookstore in New York City on Sunday, October 8, 2023. On Tuesday, the Commerce Department releases U.S. retail sales data for September. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

Navalny, who exposed official corruption and organized major anti-Kremlin protests, was arrested in January 2021 upon returning to Moscow after recuperating in Germany from nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin.

While imprisoned, the anti-corruption crusader has spent months in a tiny one-person cell, also called a “punishment cell,” for purported disciplinary violations such as an alleged failure to properly button his prison robe, properly introduce himself to a guard or to wash his face at a specified time.

Navalny’s associates and supporters have accused prison authorities of failing to provide him with proper medical assistance and voiced concern about his failing health.

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