George and Amal Clooney are speaking out about the imprisonment of Alexei Navalny, the most prominent critic of Russia's autocratic president, Vladimir Putin.
Navalny, 44, survived being poisoned by a nerve agent last summer — which left him in a coma — and returned to Russia last month after five months spent recovering in Germany.
After arriving in Russia, Navalny was soon taken into custody, as he had expected. His detention touched off extensive protests.
In a statement on Wednesday on behalf of the Clooney Foundation for Justice, the Clooneys said their organization's TrialWatch arm "will be monitoring the upcoming trials of Aleksey Navalny."
"Mr. Navalny is currently imprisoned on the basis of a conviction that the European Court of Human Rights determined was 'arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable' and for which Russia was required to pay Mr. Navalny compensation," George, 59, and Amal, 43, said.
They added: "We also note that Navalny was poisoned and nearly died, with evidence pointing directly to the Putin regime. This crime must be independently investigated and those involved must be brought to justice as soon as possible."
Created in 2016 by George and Amal, a prominent human rights lawyer, the Clooney Foundation for Justice "advocates for justice through accountability for human rights abuses around the world," according to its website.
Navalny has accused Putin's government of his poisoning last August, widely seen as an attempted assassination.
The Kremlin denies involvement even as an investigation by multiple news organizations documented what they described as links between Navalny's poisoning and Russian government operatives.
According to the Associated Press, Russian officials said Navalny was taken into custody in January after arriving from Germany for violating the terms of his probation from a 2014 conviction.
His defense said his poisoning and subsequent recuperation in Europe prevented him from being able to comply.
The opposition leader, long one of Putin's most prominent detractors and a leader of the country's anti-corruption movement, has faced fraud and libel charges and was convicted in a money laundering case in 2014 — all of which, he says, were politically motivated.
The Clooneys' statement reflects the international attention turned on Russia as it prosecutes Navalny.
The activist and politician, who was barred from running against Putin in Russia's most recent election, has millions of followers across social media, where he has posted videos in recent years with information he says reveals the corruption behind the Russian government under Putin.
On Tuesday, Navalny was reportedly sentenced to two-and-a-half years over the alleged probation violation.
NPR reported that the Russian judge presiding over Navalny's latest case agreed with prosecutors' request that his term be served in actual prison time, despite the European Court of Human Rights previously ruling in 2017 that he had been treated unfairly by the government.
"This is how it works: They send one to jail to intimidate millions," Navalny said in court, according to the BBC. Navalny added that Putin "will go down in history as a poisoner."
"I have deeply offended him simply by surviving the assassination attempt that he ordered," Navalny has said, according to the AP.
"The aim of that hearing," he said, "is to scare a great number of people. You can't jail the entire country."
More than 1,400 people were detained in Russia on Tuesday amid the ongoing protests against Navalny's imprisonment, according to the BBC.
President Joe Biden and other world leaders have spoken out about the case as well, with some observers urging even more pressure on Navalny's behalf.
Late last month, the White House said Biden, 78, had "raised concern" on a call with Putin about Navalny's treatment.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said this week there was "an ongoing review … of a number of concerning actions by the Russian government, which includes the treatment of Alexei Navalny."
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