A Russian court has sentenced two activists, Yan Sidorov and Vladislav Mordasov, to 6 1/2 years and 6 years and 7 months in a penal colony, respectively, over protests in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don in 2017.
A third defendant, Vyacheslav Shashmin, was given 3 years of probation.
Calling the October 4 rulings a "deplorable act of injustice," Amnesty International said Sidorov, 19, Mordasov, 24, and Shashmin, 20, were “prisoners of conscience detained solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”
“Throwing these human rights activists behind bars is a deplorable move which serves as an indictment of the state of the Russian justice system,” Denis Krivosheev, the human rights watchdog’s deputy director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said in a statement.
Following what Amnesty International called a “plainly unfair trial,” the Rostov-on-Don Regional Court found Sidorov and Mordasov guilty of “attempted organization of mass disturbances,” while Shashmin was found guilty of “attempted participation in mass disturbances.”
Mordasov's lawyer told Interfax that his client and Sidorov planned to appeal their sentences.
Sidorov and Shashmin were 18 years old when they were detained in November 2017, and Mordasov was 21.
The activists were prosecuted for allegedly planning to organize or take part in riots in Rostov-on-Don, with investigators saying they had called for public disturbances and planned attacks on police.
However, Amnesty International said the trio was prosecuted for trying to stage a peaceful protest in support of residents who had lost their houses in mass fires in the city in August 2017.
“These young men organized a peaceful picket with nothing more than a piece of paper and a loudspeaker. In falsely characterizing this protest as a violent ‘mass disturbance,’ Russian investigators have fabricated a story designed to destroy the lives of these activists and their families,” Krivosheev said.
The sentences came after a summer of protests in Moscow to demand free and fair municipal elections. Several people have been sentenced to prison terms over the rallies.