YEKATERINBURG, Russia -- Russian opposition politician and former mayor of the Urals city of Yekaterinburg Yevgeny Roizman has been sentenced to nine days in jail for his online posts about a January 31 rally to support jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny.
On May 12, the Oktyabr (October) district court in Yekaterinburg found Roizman, who is also a former parliamentary deputy, guilty of organizing an unsanctioned rally.
Roizman pleaded not guilty, saying his posts were neither calls for people to attend the rall, nor an attempt to organize it.
Nationwide demonstrations held on January 23 and January 31 were against the arrest of Navalny, who was detained at a Moscow airport on January 17 upon his arrival from Germany, where he was recovering from a poison attack with what several European laboratories concluded was a military-grade chemical nerve agent in Siberia in August.
Navalny has insisted that his poisoning was ordered directly by President Vladimir Putin, which the Kremlin has denied.
The rallies were met with a harsh response from authorities, with many of those taking part either receiving fines and short jail terms and some facing several years in prison.
Russia has also ramped up pressure on domestic and foreign social networks, accusing them of refusing to delete opposition content.
Moscow’s Tagansky district court fined Telegram five million rubles ($67,000) on May 12 for not removing calls "inciting minors" to join protests, TASS reported.
Moscow has repeatedly fined foreign Internet companies, including Facebook, Google and Twitter, for failing to comply with Russian legislation.
Roizman wrote on social networks on the eve of the January 31 rally that "It is necessary to come out on the 31st. I will," and "They are bastards, let's come out."
He also wrote wryly: "They are doing everything to make as many people as possible come out. It is important not to impede this move by the morons."
Prosecutors said at the hearing that since Roizman's posts "included the date and the site" of the rally, he can be considered an organizer of an unsanctioned public event. The posts, however, did not list any specific site for a demonstration, he countered.
In February, a Moscow court ruled that, while in Germany, Navalny had violated the terms of parole from an old embezzlement case that is widely consideredto have been politically motivated.
Navalny's 3 1/2-year suspended sentence from the case was converted to a jail term, though the court said he would serve 2 1/2 years in prison given the amount of time he had been held in detention.