News / Europe

Eight Russians Convicted of Attacking Police

Defendants stand in courtroom cage, Moscow, Feb. 21, 2014.
Defendants stand in courtroom cage, Moscow, Feb. 21, 2014.
Reuters
A Russian judge on Friday convicted eight defendants of rioting and assaulting police at a protest against Vladimir Putin, in what one of his leading critics called a "show trial" designed to make clear the president would tolerate no dissent.

In a show of force outside the courthouse, police pushed into a crowd of hundreds that had gathered to support the defendants, grabbing people one by one and hauling them away.

Moscow police said they detained about 200 people for attempting to violate public order.

The convictions, which activists had anticipated, coincided with political turmoil in neighboring Ukraine, where dozens have died in violence the Kremlin blames on militant government opponents it accuses the West of encouraging.

The defendants — seven men and a woman mostly in their 20s — were found guilty of rioting and violence against police at an opposition protest on May 6, 2012, the eve of Putin's inauguration for a third presidential term.

Putin's opponents blame the police for clashes at that rally on Moscow's Bolotnaya Square — one of a series of protests that were the most concerted during his long rule but failed to prevent his return to the Kremlin after four years as prime minister.

They say it was part of a fresh clampdown on dissent by Putin, first elected in 2000, that has included restrictive laws, accusations of Western meddling and the jailing of critics such as members of Pussy Riot.

Putin has denied he uses the courts as a political tool, and has said violence against police must not go unpunished.

Two women from the protest band were in the crowd outside the court, as was Alexei Navalny, who emerged from the wave of protests as the top opposition leader and is serving a five-year suspended sentence after a theft trial last year he said was Kremlin revenge.

All eight defendants pleaded not guilty. By law, each could be sentenced to up to eight years in prison, but prosecutors asked the judge to hand down sentences of five to six years.

Sentencing after Sochi

After starting the hearing more than three hours behind schedule, judge Natalya Nikishina abruptly ended it late in the afternoon and said she would pronounce the sentences on Monday.

That means they will be passed after Sunday's close of the Sochi Winter Olympics — a prestige project for Putin, who has faced criticism from the West for his treatment of dissent in his third presidential term.

Shouts from the street of "Shame!" and "Free them!" drifted into the cramped fourth-floor courtroom where the male defendants, who have been in custody since 2012, stood handcuffed in a metal cage as Nikishina read out the verdict.

Some ignored the judge, exchanging glances with their wives and girlfriends instead.

Repeating parts of the indictment word-for-word, Nikishina detailed how each defendant had attacked police.

She said Alexandra Naumova, 20, who is under house arrest pending sentencing and stood holding hands with her husband in the courtroom, had thrown stones, bottles and chunks of asphalt at police at the protest.

The judge said she threw eight objects at police. Her lawyer, Dmitry Dubrovin, said after the hearing there was only one instance in which she may have done so and that had not been proven in court.

Nobody was killed at the 2012 protest and the defendants are not charged with endangering the lives or health of police. One was accused of hitting an officer with an "unidentified hard, yellow object" that his lawyers say was a lemon.

Tale of two cities

Before the Olympics, Putin engineered the release of two women from Pussy Riot and of former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was widely seen as a political prisoner during more than 10 years in jail.

But relatives of the defendants in the "Bolotnaya Case" fear they will not walk free on Monday.

They worry that following the turmoil in Kiev, which has killed at least 77 people since Tuesday and blanketed Russian TV screens, the Kremlin wants to send a firm signal that street violence will not be tolerated in Russia.

"It looks like we are being punished for the Maidan," said Dmitry Agronovsky, a lawyer for one of the defendants, referring to the square in the Ukrainian capital where protesters have made a stand against the Russian-backed president for two months.

"Almost no one doubts that the verdict will be vindictive and cruel," Khodorkovsky, who was flown out of Russia on the day of his release in December, said in a statement on Thursday.

He said the defendants were victims of a "show trial."

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday because of its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Dr. Marina from: Finland
February 21, 2014 4:45 PM
hey America, by now, you should have understood that the "Leaders of the opposition" as they call these dumb idiots (which are Fascist organizations just like Al Qaida, Hamas, Hizbullah or a Neo Nazi organizations) have absolutely no control over events in Ukraine.
But hey, America under the Kenyan defect stopped resembling AMERICA long time ago...
"yes we can..." LOL idiots!!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid