ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) – A Russian court convicted two members of a left-wing youth group terror on Monday in a case that human rights organizations called fabricated and based on forced testimonies.
A jury of three judges at the St. Petersburg military court – in Russia, the military courts deal with allegations related to terrorism – found Victor Filinkov, 25, and Yuly Boyarshinov, 28, a member of a terrorist organization. Filinkov was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment, while Boyarshinov, who was also found guilty of explosives possession, was sentenced to five and a half years behind bars.
Both are said to belong to the Set (Network) group, seven of whom were sentenced to long prison terms in Penza, a city 500 kilometers (310 miles) southeast of Moscow earlier this year.
The group was accused of preparing to carry out attacks in the Russian presidential elections of March 2018 and when Russia hosted the FIFA World Cup football tournament later that year, but investigators have not documented those early claims during the trial.
Some defendants initially pleaded guilty to the charges, but later withdrew their confessions and said that they were tortured during the detention of the Russian security service FSB to blame themselves. The case against the group was based largely on these confessions.
The case caused much outrage and sparked several protests in recent years. Earlier this year, human rights lawyers wrote a letter to President Vladimir Putin demanding an investigation into possible torture of the group members. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov replied that Putin has launched an investigation into the allegations. It remains unclear what the findings were.
Monday’s verdict sparked protests again, with up to 80 people gathered at the courthouse and “Shame!” and “Freedom for political prisoners!”. Filip Shchelkanov, one of the supporters of the group, told The Associated Press that he was sure they were being tortured. “They are not guilty of terrorism,” said Shchelkanov, 32.
According to media reports, about 30 people have been detained. The images showed police officers in riot gear towing protesters to police vans.
Yevgenia Kulakova, Filinkov’s lawyer, said the defense would appeal.
“The materials of this case were not only manufactured at the preliminary investigation stage, but the court itself falsified the materials,” said Kulakova.
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