The human rights watchdog Amnesty International says four members of Russia's political opposition are likely prisoners of conscience, since it appears they were detained by police solely to prevent them from exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
Four members of the Other Russia coalition in the city of Nizhny Novgorod -- Ekaterina Bunicheva, Anton Zakharov, Aleksandr Zaitsev, and Yuri Staroverov -- were sentenced to five days' administrative detention for allegedly swearing in public and for resisting police orders.
Amnesty has demanded their immediate release.
Amnesty says it appears the allegations may have been fabricated, raising fears the four were detained only to prevent them from attending antigovernment demonstrations due to take place on January 31.
"Planning to express dissenting views is not a violation of the law," said Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty's Europe and Central Asia program director. "Administrative detention should not be used as a preventive measure to stop people from exercising their right to freedom of assembly."
Detaining people ahead of demonstrations on what appears to be fabricated charges, Duckworth said, is not in line with Russian and international law governing the right to freedom of assembly.