A court in Russian has rejected an appeal by opposition leader Alexei Navalny for release from jail, as a number of his allies were also detained.
He used his court appearance to deliver a warning to the Russian regime, which he has accused of attempting to kill him with a nerve-agent.
“You won’t succeed in scaring tens of millions of people who have been robbed by that government,” he said. “Yes, you have the power now to put me in handcuffs, but it’s not going to last forever.”
On Wednesday police raided a number of apartments and offices linked to the politician, who is the highest profile opponent of Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Following widespread protests against his detention last weekend, thousands of people were arrested, and in the days following them a number of his associates were detained too.
They include his brother, Oleg; his top ally, Lyubov Sobol; Oleg Stepanov, head of Navalny’s Moscow office; Dr Anastasia Vasilyeva from the Navalny-backed Alliance of Doctors; and Maria Alyokhina from the Pussy Riot punk collective.
They were detained for 48 hours as part of a criminal probe into alleged violations of coronavirus regulations during Saturday’s protests.
The 44-year-old was arrested on January 17 upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from the nerve-agent poisoning.
Russian authorities have rejected the accusation that they were behind it.
He was jailed initially for 30 days after the prison service alleged he had violated his probation terms relating to a 2014 money-laundering conviction that he has rejected a politically motivated.
He also faces accusations in two separate criminal probes.
Before the Moscow Region Court rejected his appeal, defense lawyers argued that while recovering in Germany from the poisoning, Navalny could not register with authorities as required by the terms of his probation. His lawyers also said Navalny’s due process rights were repeatedly violated during his arrest.
Navalny described his jailing following an earlier hearing held at a police station as a mockery of justice.
“It was demonstrative lawlessness intended to scare me and all others,” he told the Moscow court.
Navalny’s supporters are organising another round of rallies for Sunday.
At his court appearance he thanked his supporters and said, “They are the last barrier preventing our country from sliding into degradation.”
In a later post on Instagram, he urged the Russians to abandon their fear and take to the streets to pressure Putin and his entourage.
“Come out and don’t be afraid of anything,” Navalny said. “No one wants to live in the country where lawlessness and corruption run amok. The majority is on our side, let’s wake them up.”
Earlier this week, Russian state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said it would fine Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube and two Russian social networks for their failure to block calls on minors to join Saturday’s protests.
A spokesperson for Facebook responded to the AP’s request for comment by saying that “there are times when we push back on government requests to remove content which doesn’t break our rules and is clear political speech.”