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Russian Court Gives Circassian Activist Suspended Sentence On Drug Charge Considered Politically Motivated

Martin Kochesoko (file photo)
Martin Kochesoko (file photo)

A Russian court has given the leader of an ethnic Circassian civic organization a three-year suspended sentence on narcotics charges, in a case human rights groups consider politically motivated.

Martin Kochesoko, the leader of the Khabze nongovernmental organization in the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, was also given one year of probation, the Memorial human rights center said on March 2.

Kochesoko was detained in June 2019 while traveling with a friend on a fishing trip in Russia’s North Caucasus region.

Police and hooded soldiers stopped their car and allegedly found 268 grams of marijuana.

Kochesoko claims the drugs were planted on him and he was forced to confess under duress.

At the trail, he pleaded not guilty.

The Memorial human rights center considers the 32-year-old activist politically persecuted and the charges against him fabricated.

Kochesoko has criticized Russia's laws on the teaching of native languages and has participated in the Democratic Congress of Peoples of Russia.

Civil rights groups say drug offenses have become one of Russian authorities preferred weapons to harass, intimidate, and punish political opponents, civil-society activists, and inconvenient journalists.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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