The General Rapporteur on Political Prisoners of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Sunna Ævarsdóttir (Iceland, SOC), has condemned the searches and subsequent detention of Alexei Navalny’s lawyers, and called for their release.
“According to reports, the homes of Vadim Kobzev, Igor Sergunin and Alexei Liptser were subjected to raids by the Russian authorities, after which they were detained. The Russian authorities allege that the lawyers participated ‘in an extremist group’, on grounds that seem to relate to the ordinary provision of legal representation to Mr Navalny. There are also reports of a raid on the law firm of another of Mr Navalny’s lawyers, Olga Mikhailova, who was not in the country at the time,” Ms Ævarsdóttir said.
“The criminal investigation and detention of Mr Kobzev, Mr Sergunin and Mr Liptser is a disgrace. Lawyers should not be subject to persecution or reprisals for seeking to uphold the rights of their clients,” she said.
“Mr Navalny’s access to lawyers is not only essential for him to exercise his right to a fair trial: it is also vital for humanitarian reasons. During his imprisonment in a special punitive facility, Mr Navalny has been almost entirely cut off from the outside world. He is not allowed any phone calls, has only intermittent and highly censored access to letters, and receives almost no visits apart from his lawyers. Without access to his lawyers, there will be no meaningful external scrutiny of the treatment of Alexei Navalny by the Russian authorities and he will suffer from almost complete isolation,” the rapporteur added.
“I call for the immediate release of Vadim Kobzev, Igor Sergunin and Alexei Liptser – and for them to be able to access Alexei Navalny in prison,” she concluded.