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His lawyer says Igor Khoroshilov has the right to immunity during the election season as a member of the election committee, and that he was illegally denied access after his client's arrest.

A court in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don has ordered the arrest of a journalist after he made a post on social media about the voting strategy of jailed Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny -- the latest move against the opposition ahead of parliamentary elections.

Igor Khoroshilov, who is also a member of the local election committee, was detained on September 10 while on his way to work and charged with public dissemination of the symbols of an extremist organization following his Facebook post about Navalny's Smart Voting strategy.

His detention is to last 10 days, which his lawyer says will sideline him until after the elections. Khoroshilov was to monitor the vote for irregularities.

Russia earlier this year declared Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation an "extremist" organization in what critics say is an attempt to quash opposition to the Kremlin.

Navalny, who is serving a jail term on charges he says are bogus, has called on his supporters to vote against candidates from the ruling, pro-Kremlin United Russia party in this month's parliamentary elections.

The Kremlin has carried out a sweeping crackdown on the opposition heading into the September 17-19 vote amid concerns United Russia could fail to win the two-thirds majority needed to rubber-stamp legislation.

Some opposition politicians have been barred from running for parliament for spurious reasons, while others have left the country amid fear of detention. Journalists and bloggers have also been harassed.

Feliks Berkovich, Khoroshilov's lawyer, said he was illegally denied access to his client at the police station in Rostov-on-Don.

The lawyer also said his client has the right to immunity during the election season as a member of the election committee.

He said the arrest of his client was "ordered" by the authorities.

A court in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk has handed prison terms to a couple who protested the arrest of a group of activists and criticized pension reform.

Pavel Chikov of the legal defense organization Agora wrote on his Telegram channel that the Central District court in the Ural's city on September 10 sentenced Dmitry Tsibukovsky to 2 1/2 years and his wife, Anastasia Safonova, to two years in prison.

Prosecutors had sought six years in prison for each defendant.

Tsibukovsky and Safonova, who are self-declared anarchists, were initially arrested in 2018 after they placed a large banner with the words "FSB -- Main Terrorist” outside the building of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in Chelyabinsk. The FSB is the successor to the Soviet-era KGB.

Tsibukovsky and Safonova were seeking to express solidarity with a group of activists arrested in 2017-18 for allegedly creating a terrorist group called Set (Network), with cells in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Penza, and Omsk, as well as in neighboring Belarus.

Last year, nine members of the group were convicted of terrorism and handed lengthy prison terms.

Amnesty International has called the terror charges "a figment of the Russian security services' imagination...fabricated in an attempt to silence these activists."

The London-based human rights watchdog maintains the case is “the latest politically motivated abuse of the justice system to target young people.”

The government’s case against Tsibukovsky and Safonova was thrown out twice after investigators failed to prove elements of a crime in the couple’s actions.

Tsibukovsky said that he and Safonov were tortured while in custody.

The couple was later charged with vandalism for graffiti that protested against unpopular pension reforms passed in 2018.

They were arrested again in April 2020 and spent four months in pretrial detention before they were transferred to house arrest.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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