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Moscow Court Prolongs Detention For Anti-Putin Protesters

  • RFE/RL

A Moscow court has ordered 10 of 12 defendants appearing in a pretrial hearing to be kept in detention for an additional six months.

The Zamoskvoretsky Court’s decision also included an extension of a prohibition against leaving the area for an 11th defendant not held in custody and ordered the extension of the 12th defendant’s house arrest.

Most were detained after violence broke out on the capital's Bolotnaya Square in May 2012, one day before Vladimir Putin was inaugurated for his third term as president.

The defendants are accused of participating in "mass disorder," attacking police, or both, and some face up to eight years' imprisonment if convicted.

Opposition activists say the clashes that occurred were the result of planned provocations by authorities. The rights group Memorial says the main evidence against the defendants is based on police testimony that is "extremely contradictory."

"[This is] the biggest political trial against the opposition since the Soviet times," Russian opposition figure Ilya Yashin told journalists outside Moscow City Court on June 6. "Almost 30 people will face trial, and this is not the end, it is obvious that this case will have a continuation. My friends and I consider this case to be absolutely fabricated and politically motivated. By putting people in prison the authorities pursue two goals: the first one is to scare off the part of the society that wants changes, that is not satisfied with the situation in the country; the second goal is to discredit the opposition."

The 10 male defendants at the hearing were kept inside a glass-walled cage. The two women, who are not under arrest, were allowed to sit on a bench. Supporters in the court chanted, "We will win," as the defendants went before the judge.

Most of the 12 defendants have already been held in pretrial detention for almost a year.

The Bolotnaya protest against Putin’s rule was the biggest of a wave of demonstrations that erupted in the wake of the December 2011 parliamentary elections, which included many complaints of electoral fraud.

Yashin called on Russians to renew and strengthen their protests against the Russian government.

"We should not go home, we should not sit in our kitchens, we should not stay hidden online. We need to go out, and when there will really be a lot of us, then the situation will change," Yashin said. "It is the question of the critical mass [of opponents]. We are not the first and not the last ones [pursuing such cause]. Russia is not the only and the last autocracy in the world. And we know how autocracies break down. We need a peaceful and civilized transformation from the authoritarian regime to the democratic one."

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and RFE/RL's Russian Service