Bashkortostan's Supreme Court Rejects Appeal Of Former Chief Of Navalny's Team Against Her Imprisonment

By RFE/RL's Idel.Realities

UFA, Russia -- The Supreme Court of Russia's Republic of Bashkortostan on November 7 rejected an appeal filed by Lilia Chanysheva -- the former regional leader of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny's team -- of the guilty verdict and the 7 1/2 year prison term she was handed in June amid a brutal crackdown on civil society and dissent across Russia.

Chanysheva was handed the sentence on June 14 after a court in Bashkortostan's capital, Ufa, found her guilty of creating an extremist community, inciting extremism, and establishing an organization that violates citizens' rights.

The activist and her lawyers called the verdict and the sentence "unjust, illegal, and unfounded" and asked for an acquittal on all charges. The defense pointed out that the Russian Criminal Code allowed for the court to change the sentence and release Chanysheva from criminal liability.

The Prosecutor-General's Office had sought to increase the charges against her, toughen the punishment to 10 years in prison, and increase the fine from 400,000 ($4,340) rubles to 700,000 rubles ($7,600).

The Supreme Court on November 7 also upheld a 2 1/2 year prison term for Chanysheva's co-defendant, activist Rustem Mulyukov, who was convicted of taking part in the activities of an extremist organization -- mainly organizing events, including educational seminars, investigative programs, and rallies and demonstrations in Ufa. Navalny had teams in almost all major cities across Russia..

Before the Supreme Court pronounced its decision, Chanysheva, 41, thanked dozens of people who came to support her.

"Whatever decision is made, it will be canceled some point in the future anyway. And we will remain friends forever. Thank you for not forgetting me, for your letters, for coverage in the media and social networks," Chanysheva said.

Chanysheva's defense called the court's decision illegal and unreasonable and promised to appeal it.

Chanysheva was arrested in November 2021. Her trial was held behind closed doors on March 1.

She headed the local unit of Navalny's network of regional campaign groups until his team disbanded them after a Moscow prosecutor went to court to have them branded "extremist."

The request was accepted, effectively outlawing the group.

Chanysheva's defense team said at the time that her arrest was the first since the movement was banned. The charges appear to be retroactive since the organization she worked for disbanded before it had been legally classified as extremist.

Navalny himself has been in prison since February 2021 after he was arrested a month earlier upon returning to Russia from Germany where he had been undergoing treatment for a near-fatal poisoning with a Novichok-type nerve agent that he says was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin has denied any role in Navalny's poisoning.

In August, Navalny had his sentence more than doubled to 19 years on extremism charges, with the court also ruling to send him to a harsher "special regime" facility, rather than the maximum-security prison where he currently is held.

Several opposition leaders and associates of Navalny have been charged with establishing an extremist group. Many have fled the country amid pressure from the Russian authorities.