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Russia jails young anti-fascists in 'terror' case

AFP  |  Moscow 

A Russian court on Monday sentenced a group of young anarchists and anti-fascists to between six and 18 years in prison on terror and other charges, a lawyer told AFP.

A military court in the central Russian city of Penza handed down the verdict in the so-called "Network" case, Sergei Morgunov, a lawyer for one of the seven defendants, told AFP.

Rights activists and defence lawyers strongly criticised the case overseen by the FSB security service, a successor to the KGB, saying the men had been tortured.

All seven had denied the charges.

Dmitry Pchelintsev and Ilya Shakursky were convicted of creating a "terrorist organisation", among other charges, and sentenced to 18 and 16 years in prison respectively.

The FSB has accused Pchelintsev, 27, of creating the "Network" with the goal of overthrowing the government and seeking to attack government offices and employees.

Five other men were found guilty of participating in the organisation.

Several members of the group were also convicted of the illegal possession of weapons and explosives and attempted drug trafficking.

Five of the seven men will serve their terms in a maximum security prison.

Arrested in 2017 and 2018, most of the men said they had been tortured in custody with electrodes and beaten to extract a confession.

One contracted tuberculosis last year while in custody, his relatives said.

The security service said it had found two Makarov pistols and grenade parts during searches.

Memorial, a top human rights organisation in Russia, has pronounced the men political prisoners, describing them as leftist activists and anti-fascists.

In an open letter, relatives of the men had called the charges against them "fabricated" and demanded a fair trial.

"Everything in this case has been made up," said the letter released by For Human Rights, an NGO.

"This is a monstrously harsh verdict, but we didn't expect anything else," Oleg Orlov of Memorial told AFP.

The "Network" affair is one of several cases initiated by the FSB.

Critics say it is similar to another case against an alleged extremist organisation called "The New Greatness" whose young members have also been accused of plotting to overthrow the Russian government.

Critics say both cases have been fabricated by the security services using secret witnesses and confessions obtained under duress.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, February 10 2020. 16:14 IST
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