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PEN International joins PEN Moscow and St Petersburg PEN to demand the release of Alexei Navalny

Wednesday 21 April 2021 - 10:02am

Moscow, Russia. 23rd of January, 2021 People take part in an unauthorized rally in support of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Tverskaya Street in the central Moscow, Russia

"An attack on Navalny is an attack on all the Russian people", Jennifer Clement, PEN International President.

Prominent Russian anti-corruption campaigner and opposition figure Alexei Navalny was arrested in Moscow on 17 January 2021 upon arrival from Germany, where he was recovering after his poisoning by a Novichok nerve agent, and subsequently sentenced to two and a half years in prison for ‘violation of terms of a suspended sentence’. His health seriously deteriorated while in jail; he has been on hunger strike since 31 March after the Russian authorities denied him an examination by independent doctors. PEN International joins PEN Moscow and St Petersburg PEN in calling for his immediate release.

The text of the Centres’ joint statement, together with the Free Word Association and originally published in Russian, is as follows:

We, members of PEN Moscow and the Free Word Association, guided by the principles of the PEN Charter – which are to defend universal human ideals and oppose any suppression of freedom of speech – demand an end to the political persecution of Alexei Navalny under false pretences.

The fact that the matter lies with Navalny’s civil actions, and not in any violations, is evidenced by the speeches of Russian officials and politicians, who immediately after Navalny’s arrest called him ‘a traitor, a traitor and an agent of the US State Department.’ First, by doing so, they publicly violated the law, since such statements are, in fact, an extrajudicial charge and, even worse, a call for reprisals. Second, such words openly expose the real motives and goals of the authorities.

War has been declared not on Navalny, but on the entire civil society of Russia. In the actions of power structures, one can read an undisguised thirst to intimidate everyone who dares criticize the existing order. The moral atmosphere of the worst times in the history of our homeland is back.

We demand the protection of the individual and the protection of the dignity of the country, which is humiliated and dishonoured by such actions.

We demand the release of Alexei Navalny!

St Petersburg PEN joined the statement.

For further details contact Aurélia Dondo at PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK Tel: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 20 7405 0339 e-mail: Aurelia.dondo@pen-international.org