A Moscow judge upheld a defamation verdict against jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny, who appeared in court via videolink for the first time after going on a hunger strike.
Mr Navalny, who seemed frail, used the opportunity to launch a broadside against President Vladimir Putin and his government, comparing him to the bumbling “naked king” from the children’s story “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and calling the judge and prosecutors “traitors.”
Despite being in Germany recovering from poisoning with the military-grade nerve agent Novichok when he was accused of failing to report to parole officers, the activist was imprisoned in February in a separate case for violating parole conditions.
Mr Navalny blames the Kremlin for the assassination attempt, which the government has refuted several times.
Mr Navalny began a hunger strike in prison on March 31 to demand medical treatment, but it was called off last week when he was eventually granted medical attention.
He spoke with his wife, Yulia Navalnya, who was present in court, and told her about his weight and what he had eaten recently.
He said that he was taken to a bathhouse to look “decent” for his hearing.
“I took a good look at myself. I’m just a wretched skeleton. I was possibly in seventh grade the last time I weighed 72 kilograms “he said
Mr Navalny weighed 94 kilograms when he returned to Moscow from Germany in January, according to his counsel.
Mr Navalny went on to say that he ate “four tablespoons of porridge a day, five today, and six tomorrow.”
Mr Navalny launched a tirade against Mr Putin in his final speech before Judge Kurysheva Natalia left to take a decision, comparing him to the foolish king in the children’s story “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
“I’d like to inform you that your king is naked, and more than one little boy is screaming about it — millions of people are screaming about it already. It is self-evident. Twenty years of inept rule have resulted in this: a crown is slipping from his ears “Mr Navalny said of Mr Putin, referring to the massive anti-government demonstrations that erupted in Russia after the activist’s arrest and hunger strike.
“Your naked king wants to rule until the end,” he said. “He doesn’t care about the country; he is clinging to power and wants to rule forever.”
He was also enraged by the judges in the trial.
“You’re just betrayers. You and the naked king are carrying out a scheme to conquer Russia, and the Russians should be enslaved. Their money will be stripped away from them, and they will be without any prospects because you have carried out your scheme.”
He also ordered the judge to avoid interrupting him and referred to her as a traitor.
On February 20, Mr. Nalvalny was found guilty of defaming 94-year-old World War II veteran Ignat Artemenko.
The case was taken to court after Mr Navalny made comments on social media last June criticizing a video broadcast by state television channel RT in which a number of influential Russians expressed support for controversial constitutional changes.
Mr. Artemenko was one of those who backed him.
Mr Navalny was fined 850,000 roubles ($14,662) for his actions.
Mr Putin will be able to remain in power until 2036 as a result of the constitutional amendments, which were approved by a referendum on July 1. He has already governed the country for two decades.
Olga Mikhailova, Mr Navalny’s counsel, said her client would appeal the ruling to the European Court of Human Rights, citing “a number of breaches” in the case’s handling.
“He had lost a significant amount of weight. He went without food for a long time and just drank water. He does, however, seem to be very young for someone in his position “she said
Mr Navalny is still being treated at a hospital inside the penal colony in the Vladimir area where he is incarcerated, according to Ms Mikhailova.
Mr Navalny’s supporters expressed concern about his health when he was on hunger strike, and his doctors said medical tests revealed he was at an increased risk of kidney failure and heart attacks due to dangerously high potassium levels in his blood.
Despite his deteriorating health, Mr Navalny joked at the time that if Novichok didn’t kill him, a potassium deficiency certainly wouldn’t.
Mr Navalny and his supporters say that Russia has brought many false cases against him.
The hearing comes after prosecutors halted Mr Navalny’s political movement’s activities across the country, awaiting a court decision on whether or not to label it an extremist group, along with Mr Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation.