Moscow court extends custody of three of Navalny’s lawyers

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A Russian court on Thursday extended the custody of three lawyers for jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny as they await trial on charges of belonging to an extremist group.

The lawyers, Igor Sergunin, Alexei Liptser and Vadim Kobzev, are accused of using their access to Navalny to enable him to direct extremist activity from behind bars by passing materials to his supporters. Navalny has rejected that suggestion as ridiculous.

When the lawyers were arrested in October, Navalny’s supporters called it an attempt to further isolate him in prison and prevent him from communicating with the outside world.

A Russian financial watchdog added all three last month to a register of “terrorists and extremists”, although they have yet to be tried or convicted.

Navalny himself was convicted in August of new charges relating to alleged extremist activity and sentenced to an additional 19 years on top of the 11-1/2 years he was already serving. He rejects all the charges as politically motivated and designed to silence his criticism of the Kremlin.

The Kremlin declines to comment on his case. Authorities say they are applying the law against troublemakers encouraged by the West to destroy their nation.

(Reporting by Reuters, writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Kevin Liffey)