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Four-Year Prison Term Upheld For Peaceful Russian Protester


Konstantin Kotov (file photo)
Konstantin Kotov (file photo)

The Moscow City Court has upheld a four-year prison sentence against an activist for repeated violations of Russia’s legislation on public gatherings, in a ruling described by Human Rights (HRW) as "an outrageous violation of the right to peaceful protest."

Konstantin Kotov is one of several people prosecuted for election-related protests in Moscow this summer, and his September conviction for repeatedly taking part in unauthorized rallies prompted fresh demonstrations in the Russian capital calling for his release.

Kotov has maintained his innocence, saying he has a constitutional right to openly and publicly express his opinions.

The 34-year-old computer programmer was sentenced under a controversial law that criminalizes participation in more than one unsanctioned protest within a 180-day period.

Kotov was detained on August 10 for taking part in a rally that demanded the local election commission register opposition and independent candidates on the ballot in municipal elections.

The activist had been arrested and fined several times since March for participating in Moscow protests.

In a statement on October 14, HRW noted that two other Russian activists were being prosecuted for repeated violations of Russia's "restrictive" rules on public assemblies.

Both Andrei Borovikov in the far northern city of Arkhangelsk and Vyacheslav Yegorov in Kolomna, in the Moscow region, were charged after protesting against hazardous waste dumps, the New York-based human rights watchdog said.

Borovikov and Yegorov had previously participated in other peaceful protests in their hometowns, the statement said.

Borovikov, who was sentenced to 400 hours of community service in September, lodged an appeal last week.

Earlier this year, Yegorov spent six months under house arrest and his case is expected to move to trial, but with no clear timeline.

"The attack on free speech and free expression in Russia isn't new, of course, but every blow, every new case eats away at the tiny space left to express dissent," HRW said.

With reporting by Dozhd and Meduza