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Amnesty International no longer considers Navalny 'prisoner of conscience'

Amnesty International said it stripped Alexei Navalny of his status as prisoner of conscience after reviewing anti-migrant statements he made in the mid-2000s. File Photo by Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE
Amnesty International said it stripped Alexei Navalny of his status as prisoner of conscience after reviewing anti-migrant statements he made in the mid-2000s. File Photo by Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE

Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Amnesty International on Wednesday said it stripped Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny of his "prisoner of conscience" status, accusing him of using hate speech in past comments on migrants.

The non-governmental human rights organization confirmed the move in a statement to Al Jazeera.

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"Amnesty International took an internal decision to stop referring to Navalny as a prisoner of conscience in relation to comments he made in the past," Amnesty International said. "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 declined to specify the comments with which it took issue.

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Alexander Artemev, Amnesty's media manager for Europe and central Asia, told Russia's TV Rain 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."

The Guardian reported that 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.

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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.

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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.

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The European Court of Human Rights said the conviction was politically motivated and "unlawful and arbitrary."

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