Jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny will appear in court again on February 12 in a libel case involving a World War II veteran after the trial was interrupted last week.
The anti-corruption campaigner has described the slander case as a fabricated Kremlin public relations campaign meant to harass and discredit him.
Navalny is accused of slandering a World War II veteran who took part in the promotional video in support of last year’s constitutional amendments that cleared the way for President Vladimir Putin to run for two more terms in office after 2024, if he wants.
The trial centers on a social-media post from June in which Navalny, one of Putin’s most vocal critics, described those in the video as “traitors,” “people with no conscience,” and “corrupt lackeys.”
Russia’s Investigative Committee argues the comments contained “deliberately false information denigrating the honor and dignity” of the World War II veteran.
If convicted, Navalny faces a fine, community service, or jail time.
The trial was interrupted last week after the plaintiff, Ignat Artyomenko, said he was feeling ill and was taken away by ambulance.
Before he was rushed away, the 94-year-old veteran said he wanted a public apology from Navalny, who said he believed that the elderly man was being used “like a doll on a chain.”
Navalny also suggested Artyomenko, who attended the proceedings by video from his home, was mentally unable to follow the trial.
“You have perverted criminal law, and now you are using Artyomenko to defend the thief Putin and his friends with [Artyomenko’s] medals,” Navalny told the court.
The libel trial comes after the Kremlin critic on February 2 was ordered to serve 2 years and 8 months in prison for violating the terms of probation imposed from a widely criticized 2014 embezzlement case.
Navalny could not report to parole officers because he was recovering from a coma in Germany after being poisoned with a nerve-agent in Siberia last August, in an attack he blames on Putin and his security agents. The Kremlin dismisses the allegations.
Navalny was immediately arrested upon his return to Russia in January, triggering nationwide protests and a crackdown on his allies and supporters.