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Blogger Aleksei Navalny lodges appeal against defamation ruling in favour of businessman Vladlen Stepanov

2 November 2011

Source: Open Information Agency

The blogger Aleksei Navalny in court during 
the hearing in the defamation case brought 
against him by businessman Vladlen Stepanov

© Photo Georgy Alburov (@alburov).

On 2 November Aleksei Navalny lodged an appeal with Moscow City Court against the decision by Liublino district court under which Navalny must pay 100,000 roubles in damages to businessman Vladlen Stepanov for defamation, Vadim Kobzev, a defence counsel for Aleksei Navalny, has said.

Aleksei Navalny considers the ruling in favour of Vladlen Stepanov to be unlawful and without grounds, and moreover that in breach of legal procedures. Aleksei Navalny has therefore asked Moscow City Court to quash the ruling by Liublino district court and return the case to the court for a fresh hearing under new judges, the Open Information Agency reports.

On 17 October Moscow’s Liublino district court ruled that Aleksei Navalny should publish a refutation of a number of statements made in a video published on the Internet, including on the blog of the civic activist.

“This decision limits the freedom of the Internet,” said Ramil Akhmetgaliev, a lawyer from the Agora Human Rights Association and one of the team of lawyers working for the blogger Aleksei Navalny. “In particular this concerns users of LiveJournal. The court has ruled that placing a link to a video on the Internet is in fact distribution of the video itself. In other words, any Internet user who does not copy a text or a video but simply indicates the source of the information henceforth will be considered to be a distributor of this information.

In his defamation suit, Vladlen Stepanov demanded that the blogger Aleksei Navalny pay him 1m roubles in damages for defamation. Initially Vladlen Stepanov had stated that Navalny had distributed allegations about his complicity in the embezzlement of more than 5bn roubles of government money uncovered by the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky before his death in pre-trial detention. At the first court hearing in the case on 29 August Stepanov’s legal counsel had asked the court to increase the sum of compensation by 100 roubles to 1,000,0100 roubles.

Vladlen Stepanov attended the court session on 9 September with a new lawyer. The position of the claimant had now changed. He no longer demanded that a refutation be published of allegations of his complicity in the embezzlement of 5.5bn roubles, but demanded refutation of six statements made in the video published on Aleksei Navalny’s blog. These statements concerned the family of Vladlen Stepanov, the transfer of money, the purchase of properties, and Stepanov’s spouse from whom, as the businessman said, he had been divorced since the early 1990s.