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Amnesty strips Alexei Navalny of 'prisoner of conscience' status
25 February 2021, 13:52
Amnesty has stripped Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny of his "prisoner of conscience" status over anti-migrant comments he made in the 2000s.
The organisation did not disclose what Mr Navalny's offending comments were, but said they "met the level of hate speech."
During the mid-00s, the 44-year-old was engaged in nationalist politics and voiced anti-migrant views in several videos.
Alexander Artemev, Amnesty International’s media manager for Europe and central Asia, told TV Rain: “Yes, we are no longer going to use the phrase ‘prisoner of conscience’ in regards to [Navalny] insofar as our law and policy department, having reviewed Navalny’s remarks from the mid-2000s, came to the conclusion that they meet the level of ‘hate speech."
Labour MP Chris Bryant was among those who resigned their membership over the move.
He wrote in a tweet: "I shall be resigning from @amnesty after 38 years as a member."
Despite the move, Amnesty said they are reiterating their demand for Mr Navalny’s immediate release, and called on the Russian authorities to end the grave injustice of his detention.
Julie Verhaar, Amnesty International's Acting Secretary General, said: “The speculation around Amnesty International’s use of the term 'prisoner of conscience' is detracting attention from our core demand that Aleksei Navalny be freed immediately.
"This distraction only serves the Russian authorities, who have jailed Navalny on politically motivated charges, simply because he dared to criticise them.
“The term ‘prisoner of conscience’ is a specific description based on a range of internal criteria established by Amnesty. There should be no confusion: nothing Navalny has said in the past justifies his current detention, which is purely politically motivated. Navalny has been arbitrarily detained for exercising his right to freedom of expression, and for this reason we continue to campaign for his immediate release.
“We note that some of Aleksei Navalny’s past comments have been actively used by his opponents to discredit him. Amnesty International has itself been the target of Russian government smear campaigns, as a result of our consistent condemnation of the Kremlin’s appalling human rights record.
“We campaign for the release of unjustly detained people on a daily basis, and we will continue to do so for Aleksei Navalny. Navalny’s detention for his peaceful opposition and exposure of corruption is unlawful, and we will continue to campaign ceaselessly for his release and his right to freedom of expression.”