Russian police on Friday detained prominent rights lawyer Ivan Pavlov — who is representing jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny — on criminal charges, his organisation said.
Team 29 said on its website that Pavlov is facing charges of disclosing information about a preliminary investigation in the case of former journalist Ivan Safronov.
The offence is punishable by up to three months in jail.
“The head of Team 29, Ivan Pavlov, has been detained after a search in Moscow,” the organisation wrote.
The Saint Petersburg-based group describes itself as an association of lawyers and journalists fighting for freedom of speech in Russia, where it is known for defending people accused of treason.
The organisation is named after Article 29 of Russia’s constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech, and chapter 29 of the country’s criminal code, which defines crimes against the state including treason and espionage.
Pavlov is defending Navalny’s network of regional offices and his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) after prosecutors requested this month to designate them as extremist, equating them with the likes of the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda and banning them in Russia.
Pavlov is also handling the case of former journalist Ivan Safronov, who was arrested last July on treason charges and is accused of passing state secrets to Czech intelligence.
His pre-trial detention was extended until July during a court hearing on Friday.
Pavlov told reporters Friday that his detention is connected with the Safronov case.
He said his crime was telling reporters earlier that the case included an anonymous witness and handing a newspaper the case files.
Pavlov’s team said that police also conducted searches on Team 29’s Saint Petersburg office and at the home of Pavlov’s wife.
His colleague Yevgeny Smirnov said that Pavlov frequently received threats from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), who allegedly said “we will do everything to put you behind bars”.
President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday told journalists that he was unaware of the reasons for Pavlov’s detention and that it was not the Kremlin’s “prerogative”.
In an open letter signed by a dozen Russian lawyers, Pavlov’s colleagues said they had “no doubt” the arrest was connected to his work.
“We demand an end to the illegal criminal persecution of lawyers,” they said in the letter published on the website of Ekho Moskvy radio.
“Criminal cases against human rights defenders and lawyers is the new reality we are entering,” opposition movement Open Russia, funded by exiled former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, wrote on Telegram.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)