A Russian court on Friday sentenced two men to more than six years in a strict-regime penal colony for trying to organise ‘mass riots’ after they held protest signs outside a local government building.
Yan Sidorov, 19, and Vladislav Mordasov, 23, had taken part in one-person pickets outside the building in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, Russian news agencies reported.
Prosecutors said they also ran a chat group on a messaging app connected to a movement that is banned in Russia for ‘extremism’.
A third man, 19-year-old Vyacheslav Shashmin, was sentenced to three years probation in the same case.
‘The court ruled that Mordasov and Sidorov be found guilty and sentenced to six years and seven months, and six years and six months in a maximum security colony, respectively,’ the Interfax news agency quoted the judge as saying.
Mordasov's lawyer told Interfax they planned to appeal the jail sentences.
Amnesty International said the three men were ‘prisoners of conscience detained solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression’.
‘Throwing these human rights activists behind bars is a deplorable move which serves as an indictment of the state of the Russian justice system,’ said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty's deputy director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
The sentences came after a summer of protests in Moscow that saw six people sentenced to jail terms of between two and four years.
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of the capital to demand free and fair local elections.
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