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From the Courtroom, Russian Activist Defiantly Tweets to the End

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, July 18 2013

Aleksei Navalny (Wikipedia/Mltya Alexhkovskiy)

On Thursday a Russian court found opposition leader and Moscow mayoral candidate Aleksei Navalny guilty of embezzling money from a state-controlled timber company. He was sentenced to five years in prison, and the conviction will bar him from running in political races. The ruling singlehandedly eliminates Vladimir Putin's most formidable political foe. While the judge read the full sentence, which took more than three hours, Navalny and the rest of the courtroom live-tweeted the proceedings, even after they were ordered to turn off their phones.

It was through social media and his blog that Navalny gained prominence as an oppositon leader and exposed corruption in the United Russia party. To the end of his trial, Navalny continued to tweet and to undermine and mock the proceedings even as they took place.

In the middle of reading his decision, the Judge, Sergei Blinov, stopped to observe that more than half of the courtroom was sending messages. He ordered everyone present to turn off their phones, but most, including Navalny defiantly disobeyed.

There's still a huge pile of paper. We'll be here for a while,” Navalny tweeted.

His post of a picture of the Joker hints at his dark and dry sense of humor.

This tweet, “It seems it's only me and [Putin] aren't so sad about the verdict,” confirms it.

His last quote from court was a plea to his supporters:

It's OK. Try not to miss me. And most of all, don't be lazy. The toad won't leave the oil pipeline by itself.

In his closing statement to the court earlier in July, Navalny compared his trial to a television series. He pondered aloud whether it was a comedy or a drama, before becoming very serious. He reiterated his innocence, and his conviction that all of the evidence against him was fabricated. He then assured the court that the proceedings, and even a conviction, would not stop him from his work.

Perhaps someone thinks this isn’t the best place for me, from here to place conditions, or warn or speak of some plans of mine, but I believe no, I believe that this is on the whole the best place I could find for speaking of my plans, in order to warn everyone, and in order to put my conditions.

So, I state that I and my colleagues are doing everything so as to destroy that feudal order that is being made in Russia.

He ended his speech with a call to others like him to do the same.

Aider Muzhdabaev, the deputy editor of the Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, wrote on his blog:

The last words, delivered by Navalny were simple, clear, and firm. [They were also] a little clumsy and without grace or rhetorical beauty. He is not an orator, Navalny. And even, perhaps, not a politician. Maybe he is a nationalist. Maybe even a misanthrope, as some say. I don’t know…. But he is a brave man who should be respected as a human being….

On the basis of this, today I will think about Navalny, and compare his thoughts (statements) with this fact.

The time for speculating about whether or not he is a good person, in my opinion, has passed. Previously it was possible, but now it is despicable.

Navalny took the opportunity in his closing statements to make full use of the very prominent soap box his trial has afforded him. The European Union has already said his case has brought up “serious questions” about Russian law, and the United States has said it is “deeply disappointed” by the outcome.

But as he was sentenced, Navalny reverted to ruthless mockery of the farcical, soap opera-like proceedings. And on Twitter, the whole world can listen.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.