Hundreds detained after seven receive long jail terms for anti-Putin protest

Police move in after seven activists receive long prison terms for inauguration protest

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 February, 2014, 4:44pm
UPDATED : Monday, 24 February, 2014, 11:21pm

Police detained hundreds of protesters yesterday outside a court that sentenced seven activists to prison terms of up to four years over demonstrations against Vladimir Putin's third presidential inauguration.

The Moscow court sentenced the seven defendants to penal colony terms of between 21/2 and four years for what the judge ruled to be "mass riots" during the 2012 demonstrations, a high-profile case that has become a symbol of the harsh crackdown on opposition protests since Putin returned to the Kremlin.

Several hundred supporters gathered outside the court shouting slogans as security forces and riot police ordered them to disperse.

More than 200 people were detained for "attempts to breach public order", a police spokesman said. Some of those detained wore prison uniforms, while one wore a Putin mask.

Lawyer Dmitry Agranovsky described the sentences as excessive after his client, Yaroslav Belousov, was sent to prison for 21/2 years. "The sentences are harsh and inappropriate. They were issued based on the political situation, not on the nature of the charges," he said.

An eighth defendant, the only woman in the case, was given a suspended sentence of three years and three months.

The eight defendants were found guilty on Friday of taking part in mass riots and hitting policemen at a rally ahead of Putin's inauguration on May 6, 2012. Most have been in custody since then. Amnesty International called the guilty verdict against the activists a "hideous injustice" and condemned the hearings as a "show trial".

The court had postponed the sentencing until yesterday in a move viewed by the opposition as an attempt to avoid publicity during Sunday's closing ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.