Lawyer representing Navalny's foundation detained in Moscow

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MOSCOW (AP) – A lawyer representing the anti-corruption foundation of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was detained in Moscow on Friday morning, his colleague said on social media.

St. Petersburg-based lawyer Ivan Pavlov has been representing Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption after authorities filed a lawsuit to ban the foundation and the politician’s network of regional offices as extremist organizations.

Pavlov‘s colleague, Yevgeny Smirnov, said on Facebook that Pavlov was detained after his hotel room in Moscow was searched. Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, was involved, Smirnov said. Pavlov is being accused of disclosing information related to a police investigation, a criminal offense punishable by a fine, community service or arrest of up to three months.

It wasn’t immediately clear which case Pavlov‘s detention was connected to. He is also defending Ivan Safronov, a Russian journalist charged with treason, a prosecution that has been widely seen as politically motivated, and has been involved in other high-profile treason cases.

Pavlov had been due to appear in a Moscow court on Friday at a hearing into extending Safronov’s pre-trial detention.

According to Smirnov, Pavlov frequently received threats from investigators at the FSB, with one of them saying to Pavlov that “we’re going to do everything to put you behind bars.”

Team 29, a team of lawyers Pavlov heads in St. Petersburg specializing in freedom of speech cases, said on social media that law enforcement targeted Pavlov‘s wife in St. Petersburg and the team’s IT specialist with home searches. The Investigative Committee is also searching the team’s offices, the team said.

Earlier this month, the Moscow prosecutor’s office petitioned the Moscow City Court to outlaw Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption and his network of regional offices as extremist groups. The move is part of a sweeping crackdown on Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic, his allies and his political infrastructure.

Navalny is currently serving time in a penal colony outside Moscow. He was arrested in January upon his return from Germany, where he had spent five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning he blames on the Kremlin. Russian officials have rejected the accusations.

In the aftermath of nationwide protests in January triggered by the politician’s arrest, some of his top allies were slapped with criminal charges and placed under house arrest, and dozens of his associates in the regions were targeted with detentions and raids.

The case against Navalny’s foundation and regional offices is scheduled to be heard by the Moscow City Court on May 17. It remains unclear what evidence authorities have against the organizations because some of the case files have been classified as secret.

After taking on the case earlier this week, Pavlov vowed to make the legal proceedings “as open as possible to a wide audience, while not formally disclosing any state secrets.”

“We understand how important it is to know what the authorities implicate the Foundation for Fighting Corruption with,” Pavlov said in a social media post.

The lawyer said after a preliminary hearing Thursday that the defense team has filed a lawsuit to declassify the files in the case. Pavlov also said that the case files revealed a criminal case has been launched against Navalny and top allies Leonid Volkov and Ivan Zhdanov on charges of creating an organization that infringes on people’s rights, a criminal offense punishable by up to four years in prison.

Last August, Russian media reported that the FSB had lodged a complaint against Pavlov over his refusal to sign a non-disclosure statement in Safronov’s case. Pavlov said at the time that he had signed a statement not to disclose state secrets in connection to the case, but no one had asked him to sign a broader non-disclosure statement.

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