A Russian blogger has been sentenced to five years in prison for threatening the children of National Guard officers on Twitter.
Moscow’s Presnensky district court on September 3 found Vladislav Sinitsa guilty of inciting hatred by advocating via Twitter retaliation against the children of officers who violently dispersed a rally in the Russian capital.
The 30-year-old blogger, who is from a town outside Moscow, entered a not guilty plea saying that while he wrote the tweet on July 31 using a fake name, Maks Svetlov, he had no criminal intent.
Sinitsa also said after his verdict and sentence were pronounced that he will appeal the ruling.
"It's an act of intimidation," said his lawyer Denis Tikhonov, who described the sentence "without precedent in its severity," according to AFP.
Tikhonov said Sinitsa's tweet "was not a call to anyone, it was a conversation with a political opponent."
Russian Guard member Artyom Tarasov told the court in testimony during the trial that he "took this threat realistically and began to fear for the life and health of my family."
The charges against Sinitsa fall under Russia's anti-extremism legislation, which rights watchdogs and opposition groups say authorities are using to stifle dissenting views on social-media.
"Five years in prison for words on the Internet. If you really think this is OK, get ready to be next," civil-rights lawyer Pavel Chikov wrote on Telegram in response to the verdict.
Several sanctioned and unsanctioned rallies have taken place in Moscow since July 27 in which protesters have demanded that independent and opposition candidates be allowed to run in September 8 municipal elections.
Dozens of protesters have been fined or given jail sentences for organizing and participating in the unsanctioned rallies.
Several others are facing criminal charges for taking part in "mass unrest" and allegedly assaulting police and are being kept in pretrial detention.