GENEVA – The daughter of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny accepted a human rights award on her father's behalf on Tuesday for his courage in facing down President Vladimir Putin’s government.
Daria Navalnaya, a 20-year-old student at Stanford University in California, said her father was dedicating the courage award given by the Geneva Summit for Human Rights to all political prisoners in Russia and Belarus.
“You really should be looking at my father instead, but he’s in a Russian prison right now simply because of what he says, does and believes in — and because he didn’t die when the Russian government wanted him to,” Navalnaya said in a video message for the online event.
Navalny was arrested in January upon his return from Germany, where he had spent five months recuperating from a nerve agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin — accusations that Russian officials dismiss. He was given a 2 1/2-year prison sentence in February for violating terms of a suspended sentence stemming from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that he denounced as politically motivated.
He went on a 24-day hunger strike in prison to protest the lack of medical treatment for severe back pain and numbness in his legs, ending it in April after getting the medical attention he demanded.
Navalny was chosen as this year's recipient for its annual “courage” award by more than two dozen human rights groups.
His daughter said her father wrote her a letter from behind bars after he was chosen.
“In his letter my dad asked me today to give this award to every single political prisoner in Russia and Belarus,” Navalnya said.
Also taking part in the event was Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the main challenger in a vote in August in Belarus in which authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko won a sixth term. That victory that was widely seen as rigged.
In a nod to her father's sense of humor, Navalnaya said he wrote in the letter: “First and most importantly, please do not screw up your first public performance. And second, don’t forget to say how extremely proud I am to receive this high award.”
Navalnaya, while active in blogging and standing up for her dad, has rarely made public appearances.
Navalny was given the award for his “extraordinary courage and heroic efforts to sound the alarm about the Putin regime’s grave violations of the human rights of the Russian people,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, which co-organizes the event.