Two Russian men who attended an unauthorized anti-government rally in Moscow this summer were convicted on December 24 for attempted assault and assaulting a police officer in a wider case that's largely seen as a clampdown on political opposition.
Following a one-day investigation, authorities on November 28 detained Sergei Surovtsev, 30, for allegedly striking an officer with a metal object taken from a riot-control fence at an anti-government demonstration in Moscow on July 27.
On the day of the rally, Samariddin Radzhabov, 21, was arrested for allegedly throwing a plastic bottle at police officers -- his charge was later downgraded from assault to attempted assault.
Both pleaded not guilty.
Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court sentenced Surovtsev to 2 1/2 years in a penal colony while another court in Russia's capital commuted Radzhabov’s sentence with credit for time served and fined him 100,000 rubles ($1,620). He was released from custody after spending more than three months in jail.
Prosecutors had asked that Surovtsev receive four years in prison and the defendant declined to give a closing argument at his trial.
Protests erupted in Moscow and in other cities this summer after election officials refused to register dozens of independent and opposition candidates for local elections.
The Moscow protest on July 27 drew about 10,000 people in the city of 12 million and was the largest unsanctioned rally to have challenged President Vladimir Putin’s rule in seven years.
Police violently dispersed the crowd at the public assembly, detaining more than 1,300 people.
In the wake of the arrests, two dozen protesters were criminally charged, with nine receiving prison terms.
Surovtsev was the last person still in pre-trial detention among the protesters who attended the July 27 rally.
Altogether, 14 people who attended anti-government rallies over the summer were sentenced, of whom 11 were given prison terms ranging from 1 to 5 1/2 years.
The United States, the European Union, and human rights groups have denounced the heavy-handed police treatment of protesters and their subsequent prosecution as arbitrary and politically motivated.
Two Protesters Convicted Over Moscow Oppposition Rally In July