MOSCOW: A Russian court yesterday sentenced seven activists to prison terms of up to four years over a protest against President Vladimir Putin as police detained hundreds of supporters outside.
A Moscow district court sentenced seven defendants to penal colony terms of between two-and-a-half and four years for what the judge ruled to be “mass riots” during a 2012 demonstration.
The high-profile case has become a symbol of the harsh crackdown on opposition protests since Putin returned to the Kremlin. The eight in the dock were found guilty of taking part in mass riots and hitting policemen at a rally against Putin’s inauguration to a third term as president.
“The sentences are harsh and inappropriate. They were issued based on the political situation, not on the nature of the charges,” lawyer Dmitry Agranovsky said, adding that the group would appeal.
His client, 22-year-old Yaroslav Belousov, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years for throwing a lemon at a policeman.
An eighth defendant Alexandra Naumova, 20-year old and the only woman in the case, was given a suspended sentence of three years and three months.
Riot police detained several hundred supporters who gathered outside the court, some shouting slogans such as “Freedom” and “One for all, all for one!”
More than 200 people were detained for “attempts to breach public order”, a police spokesman told AFP. Most were released shortly after arriving at police stations. People later gathered for an evening protest on Moscow’s central Manezhnaya Square but the entire area was cordoned off with heavy police presence and interior troops, forcing people to crowd on sidewalks.
Several hundred stood near the parliament building nearby as police told them to leave through a loudspeaker and detained people in the crowd, an AFP correspondent said.