Amnesty’s removal of Navalny’s ‘prisoner of conscience' status sparks Twitter storm
On February 23, Amnesty International stripped Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny of his ‘prisoner of conscience’ status, but added that it will continue to demand his immediate release.
The organization cited some of Navalny’s past statements as the reason for its decision, as some of them were described as “hate speech”. Those include some videos from 15 years ago in which he refers to Muslim migrants from North Caucasus as “cockroaches”.
- Navalny’s thoughts on the Caucasus
- Phone flashlights, love and Navalny – Russia’s Valentine’s Day flash mob
The news first appeared when US-based investigative journalist Aaron Mate released an email from Amnesty International UK announcing that it can no longer consider Navalny a prisoner of conscience “given the fact that he advocated violence and discrimination and has not yet retracted such statements”.
Kevin Rothrock, managing editor of the Meduza news outlet responded by saying that Aaron Mate’s “strangely cropped tweet” might be taken out of context and assuring his audience that “better people are currently seeking clarity on this issue”.
Aaron Mate later responded to Rothrock’s accusations by posting a screenshot of the full Amnesty email with the comment “for all better people to see”.
Spokesperson of the Eastern European branch of Amnesty International, Alexander Artemev, confirmed Amnesty International stripped Navalny of his ‘prisoner of conscience’ status, and explained that the organization was bombarded with complaints from “concerned citizens”:
“We had too many requests, we couldn’t ignore them”, Artemev said.
Russian media outlet Mediazona later reported, citing anonymous sources, that some of the requests to withdraw Navalny’s designation cited Twitter threads of Katya Kazbek (real name Ekaterina Dubovitskaya), a US-based Russian freelance journalist, who regularly contributes to the Russian state-owned news outlet, Russia Today, among other media outlets.
The editor-in-chief of RT, Margarita Simonyan, praised Amnesty’s decision and highlighted the “success of our columnist” Katya Kazbek in drawing attention to Navalny’s controversial statements of the past.
Katya Kazbek did not seem to appreciate Simonyan’s praise, as she responded by saying that Simonyan is “just as racist as Navalny is” and telling her to “just go f*ck herself”.
Twitter users quickly turned their anger towards Katya Kazbek and accused her of participating in what they believe to be the Kremlin-orchestrated attempt to discredit Navalny. Some even ridiculed her intimate friendship with Margarita Simonyan, such as the aforementioned Kevin Rothrock who illustrated the conflict between the women as ‘a toad asking a snake whether it has any plans for the evening:’
Others were merely surprised by the conflict:
“Jee, and they were such good friends!”
“That was unexpected. I bet they won’t pay you for your RT columns.”
“I mean, she deserves some credit, doesn’t she? It’s not every day that Simonyan gets yelled at by an RT contributor. She’s not boring.”
Katya Kazbek told her Twitter audience that she takes any platform to further her communist agenda:
Alexei Navalny is now serving a jail sentence for ‘violating conditions of his bail’ and failing to report to the authorities after being treated in Germany for what is believed to be an attempt on his life from the Russian authorities.
Amnesty International granted him the status of “prisoner of conscience” in 2017.