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Aleksei Navalny Lodges Application with European Court of Human Rights Over Case of Alleged Embezzlement of 5.4bn Roubles of Public Funds

13 June 2012

Source: Open News Agency

Blogger Aleksei Navalny in court at a hearing of the civil lawsuit 
brought by Vladlen Stepanov. © Photo Georgy Alburov (@alburov).

On 13 June 2012 blogger and public figure Aleksei Navalny made an application to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg concerning violations against the "right to a fair trial" and "freedom of expression" (Articles 6 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms).

The grounds for the application are a number of decisions taken by Russian courts binding Navalny to retract several facts stated by the unknown creators of a video clip that he had put up on his blog. The video clip mentions state officials that are party to the embezzlement of 5.4 billion roubles from the state budget, and refers in particular to former tax official Olga Stepanova and her husband and entrepreneur Vladlen Stepanov. The announcement regarding this application was made on 13 June by Aleksei Navalny's legal representative, Ramil Akhmetgaliev, a lawyer and legal analyst at the Agora Human Rights Association.

As the application to the European Court of Human Rights states, the information from the video clip that Navalny put up on his blog was specifically corroborated by materials that had previously been published on the Internet. These included data of the Russian Customs Service, photographs of real estate, extracts from the state register of real estate, extracts regarding the transfer of cash funds from a Credit Suisse bank account (concerning Vladlen Stepanov's offshore companies), extracts from real estate registers in Dubai, extracts of offshore companies registered in Stepanov's name, extracts of fund transfers to Stepanov's offshore accounts in Cyprus and the Virgin Islands, an official statement regarding Stepanov and Stepanova's income in Russia, and documents relating to Stepanov's transactions on the stock market (in support of this income declaration).

The application takes particular note of the fact that Olga Stepanova has been included in the so-called "Magnitsky List". On 23 November 2010 a committee of the European Parliament unanimously approved amendments to the annual report on human rights, which called upon the countries of the EU to take sanctions against sixty Russian officials and bureaucrats who were party to the Magnitsky case, of whom Olga Stepanova is one.

The Lublinsky district court in Moscow, which heard the case of Stepanov v Navalny obliged the blogger to prove the authenticity and basis for these statements. Navalny's defence team then lodged a petition to submit as evidence in the case copies of documents published on the Internet or to obtain originals from the relevant organisations. However, the court dismissed this petition.

On 17 October 2011 Lublinsky district court partially upheld Vladlen Stepanov's demands and obliged Aleksei Navalny to pay 100,000 roubles in damages and publish a retraction of some of the information on the video clip. According to a correspondent from the Open News Agency, on 22 December 2011 Moscow City Court dismissed Navalny's appeal and the court's decision came into force.