A court in Moldova's separatist region of Transdniester has sentenced a man to 14 years in jail on espionage charges.
Ilie Cazac, a 25-year-old tax inspector from the Transdniestrian town of Bender, had been detained in March 2010 and accused of high treason and espionage on behalf of Moldova.
Like many residents of the unrecognized breakaway region, Cazac is believed to hold a Moldovan passport.
Moldova's government denounced the February 9 sentencing as "illegal" and a violation of human rights.
His parents and a handful of rights campaigners today gathered outside the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission in Chisinau, Moldova's capital, to call on the organization to press for his release.
Cazac's mother, Stela Surchicean, said after meeting with the mission's chief, Philip Remmler, that she didn't understand why they had sentenced her son.
"For some political games of their own?" she said. "I still don't understand why my son has to spend another 13 years in prison, after almost a year in jail."
'Void Of Transparency'
Ion Manole, an activist with the Promo Lex human rights group, told RFE/RL the trial was "totally void of transparency."
It's the second such recent case in the pro-Russian separatist region, which broke away from Moldova in 1990 and fought a brief war with Moldovan forces two years later.
In December, Ernest Vardanean, an independent journalist born in Armenia, was jailed for 15 years in Transdniester on similar charges.
Moldova's government, the European Union, and the United States have repeatedly called for the pair to be released and given a fair trial.
Cazac’s parents insist their son's confession was obtained under pressure.
The young man admitted to the charges against him in a letter sent in June to the OSCE in Chisinau.
Moldovan authorities were quick to dismiss the allegations as bogus.
Cazac's parents held a lengthy protest and a hunger strike last year outside the Russian embassy in Chisinau.
The self-proclaimed government in Transdniester eventually agreed to let Cazac pick his own lawyer and granted him an hour-long reunion with his mother.
The Russian ambassador to Moldova expressed sympathy for the family’s plight but said Moscow, despite its political and financial support to the region, had no right to interfere in Transdniestrian authorities’ internal affairs.
written by Claire Bigg with contributions from RFE/RL’s Moldova Service