May 8 (UPI) — Amnesty International issued an apology to imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Friday, reversing its previous decision to strip him of his “prisoner of conscience” status.
The human rights organization said it made the decision after a “careful evaluation” of Navalny’s case and its own policies on using the term.
“Amnesty International made a wrong decision, which called our intentions and motives into question at a critical time, and apologizes for the negative impacts this has had on Alexei Navalny personally, and the activists in Russia and around the world who tirelessly campaign for his freedom,” the non-governmental organization said in a statement.
“It is Amnesty International’s firm commitment to actively fight injustice and oppression wherever it occurs. The Russian state is condemning Alexei Navalny to a slow death. That must be immediately stopped.”
Amnesty stripped Navalny of his “prisoner of conscience” status in February in response to his past comments critical of migrants.
“Some of these comments, which Navalny has not publicly denounced, reach the threshold of advocacy of hatred, and this is at odds with Amnesty’s definition of a prisoner of conscience,” the organization said at the time.
Alexander Artemev, Amnesty’s media manager for Europe and central Asia, said the decision came about after a review of Navalny’s remarks from the mid-2000s. He said the comments met the level of “hate speech.”
At the time of the comments, Navalny was involved in nationalist politics and was known for having anti-migrant opinions. He has since moved more toward the left in his views.
Amnesty Amnesty International issued an apology to imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Friday, reversing its previous decision to strip him of his “prisoner of conscience” status.said Friday it hadn’t intended to make its decision public and that it regrets that the Russian government used its decision “to further violate Navalny’s rights.”
Navalny is currently imprisoned on a 2.5-year sentence after a Moscow court determined he violated his parole conditions when he was taken to Berlin to be treated for poisoning. He was arrested immediately upon returning to Russia in January.
Since his sentencing in February, Navalny was transferred to a penal colony, where he went on a three-week hunger strike in protest to “sleep torture” and being denied medical care for back and leg pain. He was transferred to a prison hospital out of concern for his heath.
Amnesty International said it acknowledges that Navalny’s views on immigration have evolved over time, though it doesn’t condone his previous statements.
“It is part of Amnesty’s mission to encourage people to positively embrace a human rights vision and to not suggest that they are forever trapped by their past conduct,” the organization said.
Amnesty said its “prisoner of conscience” designation should not imply the group’s endorsement of the prisoner’s views, only that they should be afforded basic human rights.
Navalny spent five months in Berlin for treatment after Novichok poisoning left him in a coma as he traveled in Siberia. He was transferred to Berlin’s Charite hospital after the doctors at the Siberian hospital where he was first taken said they could find “no trace” of poison in his system, while hesitating to have him transferred.
In December, Navalny said he was able to dupe a member of Russia’s Federal Security Service spy agency into revealing they were behind the poisoning but the Kremlin dismissed his claims. The spy allegedly said the toxin was placed in the “inner seams” of Navalny’s underwear while he stayed at the Xander hotel in the Siberian city of Tomsk.
Navalny was initially sentenced in December 2014 to three years and six months of a suspended sentence and five years of probation in 2014 after he was found guilty of embezzling $470,000 from cosmetics company Yves Rocher Vostok and stealing another $80,000 from a processing company.