A new trial of Aleksei A. Navalny, the jailed Russian opposition leader, began on Monday, with multiple extremism charges potentially adding decades to the prison sentences he is already serving.
Although the charges were filed in a Moscow district court, the trial is taking place about 150 miles east of the capital in the maximum-security penal colony where Mr Navalny has been held since 2021.
Journalists monitoring the proceedings from another room were able to watch the start of the hearing via a video feed, with Mr Navalny barely visible or audible, according to a Mediazona reporter. But that feed was later cut after prosecutors complained of unspecified “security issues” faced by trial participants.
The new charges brought by the Basmanny District Court include incitement and financing of extremism, as well as “rehabilitation of Nazism”. Mr. Navalny had previously said that he had hardly had time to study the documents filed in the case, grouped into some 200 volumes or nearly 4,000 pages. Any lawsuits against him are politically motivated, he and his supporters said.
If Mr Navalny is found guilty – and acquittals are extremely rare in Russian courts, especially against opposition figures – the case could add another 30 years to his prison sentence. He has previously been sentenced to nine years in prison for various charges, including parole violations, fraud and contempt of court.
A witty and charismatic figure who lacerated the Kremlin elite with his corruption investigations, Mr Navalny, 47, was able to mobilize people across the country to demonstrate against the government, making him a political force rare in Russia.
Daniel Kholodny, former technical director of Mr. Navalny’s YouTube channel, is on trial alongside Mr. Navalny, who faces charges of participating in and funding extremist activity.
At least 15 activists who worked with Mr. Navalny face similar charges, according to his spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh. Many of them fled into exile.
Last week, two of his former associates were sentenced to long prison terms in the first sentencing of Navalny activists since the Russian government branded his grassroots anti-corruption group an “extremist organization” in 2021. Lilia Chanysheva , head of Mr. Navalny’s office in the central region of Bashkortostan, was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison. His former colleague, Rustem Mulyukov, was sentenced to two and a half years on similar charges.
Mr Navalny was arrested in 2021 after returning to Russia from Germany, where he recovered from near-fatal poisoning that was widely blamed on the Kremlin. The documentary film “Navalny”, which won an Oscar this year, implicated several agents of Russia’s state security service, the FSB, in the attack.
The Russian government has denied any involvement in the poisoning of Mr Navalny.
Mr Navalny’s parents, Anatoly and Lyudmila, tried to attend in person at the start of the trial but left the penal colony after the hearing closed. They have not been allowed to see Mr. Navalny for more than a year, the Navalny Organization said in a Twitter post. It included a clip of his father getting into a car as he drove off, saying, “No shame, no conscience, no honor.”