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Pretrial Restrictions Eased For Two Siberian Teenagers Charged With Terrorism

The teenage defendants were arrested last summer while distributing leaflets demanding the release of a noted young mathematician. (file photo)

KANSK, Russia -- A court in Siberia has eased the pretrial restrictions imposed on two teenagers charged with terrorism in a controversial case rights groups have called politically motivated.

Pavel Chikov of the legal-defense organization Agora wrote on Telegram on August 17 that the First Military District Court of Khabarovsk, at a session in the city of Kansk, cancelled the pretrial detention for Denis Mikhailenko and house arrest for Bogdan Andreyev.

Andreyev will be allowed to use the Internet to allow him to finish the 9th grade. Mikhailenko has been barred from going online. A third suspect in the case, Nikita Uvarov, was released by the court in May and has "successfully" finished the academic year, Chikov said.

The three teenagers, all 15, remain suspects in the case.

They were arrested last summer while distributing leaflets demanding the release of a noted young mathematician, Azat Miftakhov, who was arrested in 2019 and sentenced to six years in prison in January on hooliganism charges that rights groups have called politically motivated.

The trio was originally accused of creating a computer game in which a building of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) was supposed to be bombed and of plotting terrorist acts in Kansk "to retaliate" against the imprisonment of activists, including alleged members of the organization called Set (Network), which Russian authorities have labeled as terrorist.

In March, the Investigative Committee dropped most of the charges against the three Siberian teenagers, leaving a single charge against them -- "going through training to conduct terrorist activities." Russia's Criminal Code envisions up to 20 years in prison for individuals found guilty of that crime.

Several people have been found guilty of being members of Network and handed lengthy prison terms in recent years on charges of taking part in the activities of a terrorist group that planned to overthrow the country's authorities. Human rights organizations say the charges are fake, while some of the group's members have claimed they were tortured while in custody.

Russian authorities have been under criticism for what human rights defenders have called fabrications of terrorism cases against youths by Russia’s security services to create an atmosphere of fear among young men and women critical of the government.

Rights organizations have cited the Network case, as well as a high-profile case against a group known as New Greatness, as evidence of the fabrication of legal charges by the FSB against opposition voices.