Russian dissident Alexei Navalny has come out swinging during his court appearance on charges of insulting a World War II veteran, after the trial was interrupted last week by the plaintiff’s health issues.
Navalny told the judge that she was selected for the trial because she was “the most unscrupulous judge in the world” and should go back to school to become better acquainted with Russian laws.
The Kremlin critic was charged after he criticised a video broadcast by state media last year in which several citizens spoke out in favour of changing Russia’s constitution – a change critics say cemented President Vladimir Putin’s control of the government.
Navalny tweeted a clip of the video, calling the people who appeared in it “traitors”.
One was a veteran who had fought in World War II and said he was so offended by Navalny’s comments that they led his health to deteriorate, prompting him to press defamation charges.
The trial opened on February 5.
Navalny has denied the accusations and said the case was politically motivated.
His lawyer called the trial another attempt to silence Navalny, a vocal critic of Putin.
Navalny has also suggested that the 94-year-old veteran was mentally unable to follow the trial and is just a “puppet” in the trial.
The veteran had tuned in to the proceedings’ first day by video from his home but did not appear on Friday.
Instead, his lawyer read his biography for 20 minutes and highlighted his wartime achievements – which Navalny complained had nothing to do with the trial at hand.
Several witnesses were called to testify against Navalny on Friday; however, one who wanted to testify in his defence was initially not allowed in.
Navalny complained the older man had been left outside in minus 15C weather on purpose and chastised the court.
If convicted, Navalny could face fines, compulsory labour or prison.
Navalny has already been sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison in a separate case on charges of violating parole for a fraud conviction.
This was despite the fact that he could not report to parole officers because he had to be taken to Germany while comatose after an attack with a nerve agent, then stayed there to recuperate for several months.
Navalny’s supporters are planning a decentralised, peaceful protest action on Sunday to make it harder for police to arrest them: people across Russia will stand in front of their homes and hold torches aloft.