Two Navalny court hearings postponed until January – Russian court filings

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Two court hearings for jailed Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny that were due to take place on Monday have been postponed until January, court filings showed.

Navalny’s allies, who had been preparing for his expected transfer to a “special regime” colony, the harshest grade in Russia’s prison system, say he has not been seen by his lawyers since Dec. 6 and have raised the alarm about his whereabouts.

Russia’s prison service on Friday said Navalny was being moved to a new prison in another part of the country.

Navalny, a former lawyer who rose to prominence by lampooning President Vladimir Putin’s elite and alleging vast corruption, was sentenced in August to an additional 19 years in prison on top of the 11-1/2 years he was already serving.

Navalny denies all the charges against him, which he says were trumped up to silence him. The Kremlin says he is a convicted criminal and his case is a matter for the prison system.

Navalny’s spokesperson Kira Yarmysh posted on X that it was the 13th day without news of Navalny since lawyers last had access to him.

She said lawyers for Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation had filed requests with more than 200 detention centres over the weekend, seeking word of his whereabouts, and were waiting for responses.

Navalny, 47, has launched a string of legal challenges against the conditions of his detention, often using these as opportunities to ridicule prison regulations and the way they are enforced.

“Alexei is supposed to have seven court (appearances) today,” Yarmysh said on social media. “The first two have already taken place – he was not even there on video link.

“The cases have been suspended until ‘Navalny’s whereabouts are established’,” Yarmysh said.

Two hearings scheduled for Dec. 18 were postponed until Jan. 11 and Jan. 16 respectively, filings on the website of a Vladimir region court showed.

The court could not immediately be reached by telephone and did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Mariana Katzarova, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in Russia, said in a statement: “I am greatly concerned that the Russian authorities will not disclose Mr Navalny’s whereabouts and wellbeing for such a prolonged period of time which amounts to enforced disappearance.”

She said Navalny had been persistently ill-treated in detention since January 2021 and deprived of access to adequate medical care, which had damaged his health and put his life at risk.

(Reporting by Reuters, Alexander Marrow, Maxim Rodionov, Vladimir Soldatkin, Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Kevin Liffey)