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Russian Activist Gets Suspended Sentence For Ties With Opposition Group

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Activist Anastasia Shevchenko at her court hearing in Rostov-On-Don on February 18,

Russian activist Anastasia Shevchenko has been handed a four-year suspended sentence for carrying out activities on behalf of an "undesirable organization," in what Amnesty International has called a "travesty of justice."

A judge for the October district court in the city of Rostov-on-Don on February 18 found Shevchenko guilty of having links with the opposition group Open Russia, a British-based organization founded by exiled former oil tycoon and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Shevchenko's supporters say the case was a politically motivated attempt to stop her activism and punish her for showing dissent publicly.

Amnesty International’s Moscow office director, Natalya Zviagina, said in a statement that Shevchenko had "been held hostage by a cynical, cruel, and inhumane system whose sole purpose is to suppress, intimidate and crush Russia’s bravest and strongest activists."

The London-based watchdog had declared the activist a prisoner of conscience.

The prosecutor in the case had asked the court to sentence Shevchenko, a mother of two, to five years in prison.

The “undesirable organization” law, adopted in May 2015, was part of a series of regulations pushed by the Kremlin that squeezed many nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations who received funding from foreign sources.

The Russian Prosecutor-General's Office declared Open Russia "undesirable” in 2017.

In 2019, Human Rights Watch said those who support the group -- which is no longer affiliated with Khodorkovsky -- have come under “increasing pressure” from the authorities.

Shevchenko, who has been under house arrest since January 2019, is the first Russian charged with the “repeated participation in the activities of an undesirable organization.”

Previously, violations of this law were punished as a noncriminal offense.

While under house arrest, Shevchenko was granted a furlough at the last minute to see her eldest daughter in hospital shortly before she died.

With reporting by TASS, Moskovsky Komsomolets, RIA Novosti, and Ekho Moskvy
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