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Activists Detained As 'Fabricated' Terrorism Trial Resumes In Russia


Protesters outside the courthouse in St. Petersburg.

Activists were reportedly detained and single-person pickets were halted in St. Petersburg before the resumption of the trial of two defendants accused of belonging to a group that prosecutors allege planned to carry out terrorist acts and sought to overthrow the government.

The detentions came as the high-profile trial of Yuly Boyarshinov, 28, and Viktor Filinkov, 25 -- both allegedly members of the leftist group Set (Network) -- was reopened on May 25 after a month-long delay due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Rights groups and opposition figures have decried the lengthy prison sentences handed to other members of the group in February, suggested that the charges were fabricated owing to their political activism, and expressed alarm over the testimony of some of the defendants that they were tortured in custody and forced to confess.

Filinkov has claimed he was tortured with a stun guy by Federal Security Service officers and Boyarshinov has said he was beaten in pretrial detention.

On May 25, Boyarshinov's father, Nikolai Boyarshinov, briefly held up a sign in front of the courthouse that read "free all political prisoners" before police stepped in to halt the action and check his documents. He was not detained.

Defendant's Father Holds Protest As High-Profile Russian 'Network' Case Resumes
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WATCH: Defendant's Father Holds Protest As Case Resumes

But Pavel Ivankin, a member of the street-protest group Agit of Russia who had started a one-person picket the day before the trial resumed, announced on Telegram that he had been detained and cited for an infraction before the trial got under way on May 25.

One of his posts related to the detention showed an image of him holding a sign saying "Free Yuly Boyarshinov," captioned with the message: "Fine, I will picket in the police wagon."

The Telegram channel Pyatnitsa, meanwhile, reported that an activist identified as Ilya Tkachenko was detained and cited for an infraction as he headed to the courthouse, and another, Dmitry Negodyn, was detained for holding up a sign in support of the two defendants.

Filinkov and Boyarshinov have been jailed for more than 2 years. They were detained in St. Petersburg in January 2018, and their trial began in February 2020.

Russian investigators have said that Network planned to organize a series of bomb attacks in Russia during the presidential election and the World Cup soccer tournament in 2018 "to destabilize the situation" in the country and to organize an armed uprising.

In February, a court in Penza sentenced seven Network members to prison terms of between 6 years and 18 years after convicting them of terrorism.

The group members were accused of creating a terrorist group with cells in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Penza, and Omsk, as well as in neighboring Belarus.

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

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