Last December, Russian federal investigators opened up a third criminal case against Alexei Navalny, a prominent lawyer and blogger who has become one of the sharpest thorns in the side of the Kremlin. While Navalny and his supporters maintain that all the charges are fabricated and politically motivated, this newest case was different: it was filed on behalf of the Union of Right Forces (SPS), a now-debunked opposition party whose former members deny any wrongdoing. One former official, Leonid Gozman, commented this week: “I think they have been ordered to put Navalny in prison, and how they are supposed to do that is their problem… I have a feeling they do not believe Navalny stole money from SPS.”
Former SPS leader Boris Nemtsov had this to say about the case:
Boris Nemtsov’s Testimony on the SPS-Navalny Case
February 5, 2013
I would like to provide the following testimony on this case.
I have not been the leader of the Union of Right Forces political party, have not fulfilled any organizational or administrative functions of the party, and have had no signing powers since 2004.
I spent the period before and during the State Duma electoral campaign in 2007 travelling the country to meet with potential voters. I do not have any information about contracts or agreements made in 2007.
Given that the media reports that the Russian Investigative Committee has grievances with Alexei Navalny, I would like to say that I am not aware of any grievances that the members or officials of the Union of Right Forces have with Navalny. I am certain that he did not commit any acts either of embezzlement or fraud of money or property from the SPS.
I believe that the fact that a criminal case has been filed in this regard is illegal given that there are no plaintiffs, since nobody from the Union of Right Forces made any statement that a crime had been committed. Moreover, the organization broke apart in 2009 and has no legal successors.
I believe the criminal charges for supposed embezzlement or fraud in 2007 while the Union of Right Forces existed are politically motivated – just like the rest of the cases that the Investigative Committee has filed to fulfill its desire to criminally prosecute Alexei Navalny at any cost.
In his June 5, 2012 address to a broad audience at the Investigative Committee in St. Petersburg, Committee Chairman Aleksandr Bastrykin gave a speech (widely broadcast) that essentially said that Alexei Navalny needs to be prosecuted one way or another.
These actions are undoubtedly politically motivated and meant to defend the interests not so much of Bastrykin himself, but those of his fellow law school classmate, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin – a person who I am part of the opposition of (as is Navalny, obviously). Under these circumstances, it is impossible to expect that the Investigative Committee’s case against Navalny is going to be objective, unbiased, or intended to establish the truth.
I would especially like to note that, as a patriot of my country, I have never held real estate, bank accounts, residency permits, or companies in either the Czech Republic or any other NATO country or overseas in general.
In addition, as the elected governor of one of the largest Russian regions, and then as First Deputy Prime Minister of the country, I never took part in any criminal takedowns of undesirable journalists on the edge of a forest, or even two hundred meters from one, thanks to which I was not forced to say that I was in an unsound psychological state.
I would also like to note that I am firmly convinced that the Investigative Committee is at war with the opposition, but at the same time is covering up for actual criminals.
Case in point: I am a plaintiff in criminal case No. 440007, filed on January 30, 2012, with the Moscow Investigative Department of the Central Administrative District of the Central Statistical Office of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, on Part 1 Article 138 of the Russian Criminal Code, in regards to the manifestly unlawful publication on the website Lifenews.com of an article titled “Life News Publishes Secret Conversations Between Nemtsov and Oppositionists,” which contained a number of audio recordings of my personal conversations over mobile phone with a variety of people (there are more than 30 clips). However, I was told by a Moscow procurator that “preliminary investigation into this criminal case was repeatedly put on hold on the basis, covered by Article 208 of the Criminal Procedural Code of the Russian Federation, of the failure to identify the individuals subject to retention as suspects, most recently on August 8, 2012.”
Thus, all of the forces led by Bastrykin’s agency are spent on the war on oppositionists to the regime of his university classmate, but they have neither the ability nor desire to track down actual criminals, even after a full year.
Considering all of the above, I am going to evoke Article 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation and will not be providing further testimony on this criminal case.
In addition, I am not going to sign any kind of non-disclosure agreement, since I consider the case against Navalny to be a political one that has nothing to do with the prosecution of actual crime.
My silence on this matter would be tantamount to aiding political repression. But I do not intend to be silent.
Translation by Kasparov.com.