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Moscow City Court postpones hearing Navalny’s appeal against defamation ruling until 10 October

20 September 2012  

Source: Open Information News Agency

Aleksei Navalny with his lawyers: Photo by Timur Khorev (@timurkhorev).

The Judicial Panel for civil law cases in the appellate division of Moscow City Court decided on 20 September to postpone consideration of an appeal by blogger Aleksei Navalny, who earlier lost a case for defamation at the Lublin district court in Moscow for calling the ruling United Russia party the party of “crooks and thieves.”

News of the court’s decision came from Navalny’s attorney, Ramil Akhmetgaliev, a lawyer working for the Agora Human Rights Association.

“The court plans to familiarize itself with additional material we have submitted and with the objections to our appeal by 10 October 10, 3:00 PM,” Akhmetgaliev said. “Regarding the objections, there is nothing new or noteworthy there—only general statements and no concrete arguments against us.”

Navalny has appealed to revoke a decision by the Lublin district court, the court of first instance, that required him to pay a fine of 30,000 rubles to United Russia Deputy Vladimir Svirid for referring to United Russia as the party of “crooks and thieves.” Navalny has also asked Moscow City Court to adopt a new ruling that will dismiss in full the claims brought by Svirid.

On 4 June, the Lublin district court in Moscow partially upheld the suit brought by member of United Russia Vladimir Svirid and ordered Navalny to pay 30,000 rubles in compensation and to retract statements he had made in an interview with Esquire magazine as “not corresponding with reality” by publishing the court’s judgment on the internet.

In the appeal, Navalny’s lawyers pointed out that the court unlawfully upheld the claim of an individual whose rights and interests had not been infringed. The law, the lawyers argued, does not ban people from expressing their personal judgments or opinions, and permits criticism of a political party. In addition, the lawyers presented an independent linguistic evaluation, in which a committee of linguistic experts concluded that Navalny’s phrase—that “United Party is the party of crooks and thieves”—was an emotional generalization aimed at expressing a thought that is general in character and does not refer to specific individuals or events. The experts said the phrase can only be regarded as opinion, or in other words, as an unverifiable statement stemming from the speakers’ personal convictions.

The evaluation was conducted by two linguists from the N. I. Lobachevsky State University of Nizhny Novgorod: Elizaveta Koltunova, a professor at the International Slavic Academy with more than 35 years of experience, and Timur Radbil, a doctor of sciences in philology and a professor in the department of contemporary Russian language at Nizhny Novgorod State University with more than 25 years of experience.