A group of distinguished Russian scientists has called on the country's leadership to stop political repression after a wave of arrests and harsh sentences against participants in recent pro-democracy protests.
A statement signed by more than 50 scholars from the Russian Academy of Sciences says that while state agencies and law enforcement were obliged to ensure the rights of citizens, persecution of those attending peaceful political protests had instead become harsher.
"The profession of a scientist requires objectivity, a rigorous system of evidence with the inadmissibility of falsifications and fraud; we know what it is, and we believe that the law enforcement system should be based on the same basic principles," the statement by the so-called July 1 Club, said.
"Unfortunately, before our eyes, both the investigation and the courts demonstrate a complete disregard for these principles, turning the defense of law into a mockery of it," it added.
Several Russians have been jailed for several years over a series of political protests against a decision by the authorities to bar opposition candidates from participating in local elections held on September 8.
Police and legal officials have been sharply criticized for their heavy-handed tactics during and after the protests, which drew some of the biggest crowds since the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Critics say the convictions have been overly harsh and an overt attempt to scare off others from joining the protests, which have attracted tens of thousands of people.
"The observed wave of repression with complete impunity for unlawful actions by law enforcement agencies and arbitrariness of judges also causes widespread rejection in the country, as evidenced by public statements by professional communities of artists, teachers, doctors, priests and book publishers; almost 200,000 signatures were collected to end the criminal prosecution of participants of a peaceful rally on July 27, 2019, in Moscow," the July 1 Club statement noted.
Opposition activists have called for more protest on September 29.