• It was Navalny’s first public appearance since he went on hunger strike
  • A judge in Moscow upheld a defamation conviction against the activist
  • Navalny likened Putin to the “naked king" from "The Emperor's New Clothes" children's tale

Anti-corruption campaigner and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s critic Alexei Navalny made his first public appearance after observing a 24-day hunger strike, looking gaunt during a courtroom appeal against a defamation conviction. The judge, however, upheld the conviction.

Joining the court hearing via videolink Thursday, 44-year-old Navalny said: “I am a creepy skeleton… I weighed this much in 7th grade.” He had his head shaved and was seen wearing a prison jacket. His lawyer said Navalny weighed 94 kilograms in January, when he came back to Moscow from Germany, CNN reported.

Navalny was found guilty in February of defaming a World War II veteran, 94-year-old Ignat Artemenko, who had expressed support for controversial changes to the Russian Constitution. The activist was also fined 850,000 roubles (around $11,400). He called the case against him “politically motivated.”

In a courtroom speech Thursday, Navalny called Putin the foolish "naked king" from "The Emperor's New Clothes" children's tale and slammed the government for turning “Russians into slaves”, the Guardian reported.

Alexei Navalny makes first appearance in court since ending hunger strike
Alexei Navalny makes first appearance in court since ending hunger strike Babushkinsky District Court

Referring to Putin, he said: "Your naked king wants to rule until the end, he doesn't care about the country, he is clung to power and wants to rule indefinitely”. The activist also hit out at the judge and prosecutors in the courtroom and called them “traitors”.

Navalny was jailed in February in another case for breaking parole conditions, despite the fact that he was in Germany recovering from Novichok poisoning when he was accused of failing to report to parole officers. The activist claims that Kremlin is after his life, which Putin’s government has so far denied.

The hearing comes as Navalny’s nationwide network of regional headquarters is being shut down and his Anti-Corruption Foundation is n danger of being labeled an extremist organization. His two aides -- Ivan Zhdanov and Leonid Volkov – have been named suspects in a criminal case regarding opening a non-governmental organization to “endanger citizens and their rights”. Zhdanov has called the charges “exotic.”

Navalny began a hunger strike on March 31 while he was in jail to demand medical care, but ended it last week when he finally received medical attention. His wife Yulia Navalnya was physically present in the court for the hearing.

Talking to her, Navalny said that he was permitted to consume 450 calories Thursday as he slowly goes back to a normal diet after the hunger strike. He said that he had "four tablespoons of porridge a day, today five, tomorrow I will eat six".