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Russia court sentences anti-government protesters

A Russian court on Monday sentenced seven anti-Putin protesters to up to four years in prison for rioting and inciting violence against police at a 2012 protest. The protesters were arrested [Guardian report] the night before Vladimir Putin's inauguration to his third term as president. At the protest in 2012, police cut off access [AP report] to the public square where the rally was to be held. In response, Putin signed into law [JURIST report] a controversial bill that greatly increased the penalty for protesters who violate demonstration regulations. Hundreds of supporters crowded the courthouse yard to condemn the Kremlin's restriction of opposition. When the court convicted [JURIST report] the protesters on Friday, the police detained about 200 individuals for attempting to violate public order outside of the courthouse. More than 400 more protesters were then detained on Monday for holding a rally outside the Kremlin. The seven individuals have been in custody awaiting trial for almost two years. Evidence in court consisted mainly of police testimony and rally video footage. The eighth defendant in the case received a suspended sentence and remains under house arrest.

Russia has cracked down on dissent recently. In November a Moscow court ruled that the Russian government could seize the assets [JURIST report] of Alexei Navalny, a prominent critic of president. In October a Russian appeals court upheld [JURIST report] Navalny's embezzlement conviction but suspended his five-year jail sentence, allowing him to walk free. In June the UN released a letter from human rights experts voicing their concern [JURIST report] that two Russian non-governmental organizations have been charged by Russian prosecutors following their involvement with the UN Committee against Torture [official website].

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