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Putin arch-foe presses case against Russia in European court

2 min

Strasbourg (France) (AFP)

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny took his battle with President Vladimir Putin back to Europe's top rights court Wednesday, complaining of his repeated arrests ahead of elections in March.

Navalny has asked the European Court of Human Rights, which is based in the French city of Strasbourg, to rule on whether Russia has violated his basic rights by repeatedly detaining him.

The 41-year-old politician, who has been barred from standing in the March presidential poll, did not speak to the press on arrival at the court with his lawyer at around 8 am (0700 GMT).

He was arrested seven times between 2012 and 2014. Each time he was taken to a police station, held for several hours and eventually charged with public order offences.

Navalny, 41, has complained that the arrests were arbitrary, violating the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), to which Russia is a signatory.

In 2013 he was found guilty in an embezzlement case involving an allegedly crooked timber deal and given a five-year suspended sentence that disqualified him from standing for public office.

The European Court of Human Rights condemned the conviction as "manifestly unreasonable" but a Russian retrial issued him with the same sentence.

The charismatic opposition leader -- seen by many as the only genuine opposition to Putin -- was barred last month from running for the presidency because of a fraud conviction he says was politically motivated.

He has called on voters to boycott the vote, which is expected to return Putin for a fourth term, extending his stint in the Kremlin until 2024.

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