Russian court convicts 8 for roles in 2012 anti-Putin protest

Police arrest as many as 200 people protesting the conviction outside the courtroom

Police grapple with a demonstrator outside a Moscow court where eight were convicted Friday of charges related to their role in a 2012 demonstration against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
2014 Anadolu Agency

A Russian court has convicted eight people for their role in a 2012 protest against President Vladimir Putin that turned violent, following a trial seen as part of the Kremlin's efforts to stifle dissent.

Some of those convicted face up to 10 years in prison. The demonstrators had pleaded not guilty to charges of rioting, and their lawyers asked for more lenient sentences of five to six years.

As Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky District Court delivered its verdict on Friday, authorities detained as many as 200 demonstrators outside of the court building, Moscow police sources told Reuters. 

Outside the courthouse, police pushed into a crowd that had gathered to support the defendants, grabbing people and hauling them away as others shouted: “Shame!” 

Leading opposition activists attended the demonstration. Some of the demonstators detained Friday were dressed as chickens.

"Here we see small dirty tricks played by the Russian authorities, who don't allow people to come closer to the court," said opposition activist Alexei Navalny.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who spent two years in jail on hooliganism charges for participating in a protest by punk rock group Pussy Riot, told media she was there to exercise her rights as a Russian citizen.

Sentencing was postponed until Monday, meaning it will come after Sunday's close of the Sochi Winter Olympics, a prestige project for Putin. The Russian leader has faced criticism from the West for his treatment of dissenters but says he does not use the courts as a political tool.

Those convicted were involved in a May 6, 2012 protest on the eve of Putin's inauguration for a third presidential term. The demonstration turned violent after police restricted tens of thousands of marchers access to Moscow's Bolotnaya Square, where the rally was to be held.

Some demonstrators hurled bottles and pieces of asphalt at police, who struck back by beating protesters with truncheons and detaining more than 400 people.

Putin's return to the presidency had seen the passing of new laws aimed at cracking down on anti-government protests and restricting non-governmental organizations.

The latest law to irk rights activists in Russia and the West bans “propaganda of non-traditional relations,” which gay rights groups say has given a green light to harassment and intimidation. Passed last year, the policy prompted activists across the world to demand a boycott of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The Bolotnaya Square cases have drawn into sharp focus the treatment of members of Russia's civil society by the country's justice system.

Of the 28 people rounded up in May 2012, eight were recently freed on amnesty.

Several defendants have been under house arrest, but most of the others have been in jail for more than a year and a half.

Only three people have been sentenced. Two defendants received light sentences after co-operating with investigators; a third was sent for forced psychiatric treatment

Al Jazeera and wire services

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