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'They're Slowly Killing Her': Russian Activist Marks Birthday In Prison

Jailed opposition activist Taisia Osipova behind bars in a courtroom in Smolensk in August 2012
Jailed opposition activist Taisia Osipova behind bars in a courtroom in Smolensk in August 2012
Jailed Russian opposition activist Taisia Osipova turned 29 on August 26, her third birthday behind bars in a case widely seen as political.

The young woman, who is married to a leader of the Other Russia opposition movement, is currently serving an eight-year sentence on what many say are trumped-up drug charges.

Supporters are gathering in Moscow to call for her release.

Osipova's 2011 conviction in Smolensk, western Russia, has generated less attention than, for example, the jailing of Pussy Riot's punk feminists.

Husband Sergei Fomchenkov hoped the August 26 rally would help draw renewed interest in her plight.

"This is her third birthday in detention," Fomchenkov told RFE/RL. "The rally is organized by Taisia's friends, by myself, by members of the Other Russia. We decided that it was necessary to remind people about Taisia and her fate because people are starting to forget about her case."

'Too Severe'

Osipova, who has a 7-year-old daughter, was initially sentenced to 10 years in prison for the possession and attempted sale of heroin.

The ruling sparked an outcry and was denounced by critics as a setup aimed at putting pressure on her husband's political activities.

She got a retrial in 2012 after then-President Dmitry Medvedev criticized the verdict as "too severe."

But her sentence was trimmed by just two years, although prosecutors had recommended that she serve a total of four years.

Osipova has complained of being subjected to humiliation by officials at her prison near Tver, including being held in a crowded cell and routinely barred from meeting with her lawyer.

According to Fomchenkov, she is also being denied proper medical treatment for diabetes. She is also reported to be suffering from pancreatitis.

Her health, he says, is rapidly deteriorating.

"She is not receiving suitable treatment. As a person with diabetes, she should have appropriate living conditions and diet," Fomchenkov says. "This is impossible in prison. There is no endocrinologist there. In three years of detention she has seen an endocrinologist only twice, although she should be under constant monitoring by a specialist. This is not happening. They are slowly killing her."

Questioning The Process

Meanwhile, Osipova continues to proclaim her innocence.

She has accused police of planting drugs during a search of her apartment, a common practice in Russia.

Her claim was eventually corroborated by a witness during the retrial, prompting the judge to throw out the charges based on the apartment search.

Two other drug-related charges, however, were upheld.

Osipova's lawyer, Svetlana Sidorkina, says the trial was deeply flawed.

"There were many violations in her case which prove that she could not have been selling drugs," Sidorkina says. "All the evidence collected against her was provided exclusively by law-enforcement agencies. At first, she was accused of five offenses. After the case was reexamined twice, only two charges remained. If three charges against her were ruled unlawful, what are the guarantees that the other two are not unlawful, too?"

In July, Russian authorities agreed to pay Osipova 4,600 euros ($6,148) in compensation after she lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights complaining of "inhuman and degrading treatment" in pretrial detention.

Osipova has also appealed her verdict both in Smolensk and at the Strasbourg-based rights court.

Written by Claire Bigg based on reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service correspondent Lyubov Chizhova

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