MOSCOW - A 77-year old Russian human rights activist was sentenced Wednesday by a Moscow court to 25 days in jail for calling for an unauthorized protest, a ruling that has drawn strong criticism from rights groups.
Charges against Lev Ponomarev, a highly respected rights activist, stemmed from a Facebook post in which he called for a protest in October in support of several teenagers accused of extremism in a case widely described as trumped up.
Ponomarev was briefly detained when he attended October’s rally outside Moscow headquarters of the main domestic security agency (FSB). On Tuesday, Moscow’s Tverskoy Court handed him a 25-day sentence.
Amnesty International sharply criticized the sentence and called for Ponomarev’s immediate release.
“Lev Ponomarev is one of the pillars of the human rights movement in Russia,” said Natalia Zviagina, the director of Amnesty International's office in Moscow. “With this sentence, Russian authorities have shown their contempt for human rights, punishing a man who has devoted his life to defending them.”
Russia’s presidential human rights council also criticized the verdict. Its head, Mikhail Fedotov, voiced indignation over the ruling, which he called “inexplicable.”