Lisbon mayor apologises over exposure of pro-Navalny activists to Moscow
Lisbon Mayor Fernando Medina apologised on Thursday for what he said was a "bureaucratic error" that led his city hall to share with Moscow the contact details of three Russian organisers of a rally in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. Facing sharp criticism and calls from some opposition politicians to resign, an embarrassed Medina told reporters: "I apologise to the protest organisers...
- Russian Federation
Lisbon Mayor Fernando Medina apologized on Thursday for what he said was a "bureaucratic error" that led his city hall to share with Moscow the contact details of three Russian organizers of a rally in support of jailed Kremlin critics Alexei Navalny.
Facing sharp criticism and calls from some opposition politicians to resign, an embarrassed Medina told reporters: "I apologize to the protest organizers... and I want to assume this regrettable mistake that should have not happened." Medina, from Portugal's ruling Socialist Party, ruled out stepping down over the January incident, reported by the Expresso and Observador newspaper on Wednesday night.
"The position of Portugal and the European Union is in line with the one expressed by the protesters, of great concern with human rights violations, with the demand for the release of Navalny from prison," Medina added. His office said the sharing of such data with embassies facing protests over their respective countries' policies had been the city hall's "normal procedure" until April when it ceased doing so to protect the rights of protesters.
Medina said that following the procedure in a case where there is a risk for the participants was a bureaucratic error. The Russian embassy did not immediately respond to questions from Reuters.
Navalny was arrested in January upon his return to Moscow from Germany where he was recovering from what doctors said was poisoning with a nerve agent. The Kremlin has denied any role in his illness and said it has seen no proof he was poisoned. He was later jailed for parole violations related to an embezzlement case he says was trumped up.
Activists staged protests over his arrest in many countries, including Portugal, where organizers had obtained a go-ahead from the mayor's office to hold a rally by the Russian embassy after providing their names and contacts to the authority. One of the activists, Ksenia Ashrafullina, 36, and holder of dual Russian and Portuguese citizenship, discovered her contact details had been shared with the Russian embassy and Foreign Ministry during an email exchange with the city hall.
"The Portuguese state did not protect me. I felt betrayed," Ashrafullina told Reuters. "After Navalny was poisoned we realized Russia was becoming more violent towards its citizens so how am I going to be allowed back in? Maybe nothing will happen but there's no protection any longer," she said. A Russian court on Wednesday outlawed groups linked to Navalny after declaring them "extremist".
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