Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has taken his feud with President Vladimir Putin to Europe's highest rights court.
Navalny appeared before the European Court of Human Rights on Wednesday to complain that his repeated arrests by Russian authorities are politically motivated and a violation of his basic rights.
"Over the past years I have been jailed at least seven times. Last year I spent two months in a cell for exercising our right to freedom of assembly," Navalny told the Strasbourg, France-based court. "The probability that this happened 'without political coordination' is as remote as the chances of meeting a dinosaur in this court."
Navalny has been campaigning for the March 18 presidential election but has been barred by the election commission, which says a criminal conviction disqualifies him from the ballot.
Navalny claims his 2013 conviction for embezzlement was engineered by the Kremlin to keep him from public office.
Proving that Russian authorities had political motives in arresting him and not allowing his rallies to go ahead would set an important precedent for activists across Russia, Navalny told reporters.
"This case is important not only for me but also for other people in Russia, especially in the regions, because they are stripped of the freedom of assembly,'' he said. "If the European Court for Human Rights sees political motives in those cases — and I think we have presented enough evidence for this today — it will make an important precedent in Russia.''
Either way, Navalny has said the election will certainly give Putin another six years in office.