December 4, 2020

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Yuliy Boyarshinov, right, and Viktor Filinkov, members of a left-wing group Set (Network) listen a court verdict from inside a glass cage in the Western regional military court in St.Petersburg, Russia, Monday, June 22, 2020. Members of the left-wing youth group Set (Network) were accused of terrorism, in a case human rights advocates believe to be fabricated and based on testimony elicited by torture. (AP Photo/David Frenkel)

Russia jails left-wing activists in controversial terror case

Prosecutors accused the two men of plotting an armed uprising and attacks during the 2018 football World Cup on behalf of the “Network” terrorist group. The sentences have sparked protests and from human rights groups.

A Russian military court in the city of St. Petersburg handed out lengthy jail sentences to two members of a left-wing group on Monday, in a controversial case that has sparked a backlash from rights groups and protests.

A three-judge panel found Viktor Filinkov, 25, and Yuly Boyarshinov, 28, both guilty of being members of the “Network” group.

Prosecutors said the organization was behind plots for an armed uprising during the presidential election in 2018 and terror attacks during that year’s football World Cup.

Filinkov was handed a seven-year prison term, while Boyarshinov – who was also found guilty of possession of explosives – was sentenced to five and a half years.

The sentences were the latest to be handed out to members of the same group.

A court in the central Russian city of Penza in February jailed seven members of the organization in the same case on charges relating to terrorism.

At the time, rights groups spoke out against the rulings, concerned that the cases were based on statements that group members said they gave after being tortured while in the custody of the FSB — Russia’s security service.

Filinikov and Boyarshinov, who were arrested in January 2018, both confessed to the crimes initially. But Filinkov later retracted his confession, saying he was beaten and subject to electric shocks in detention.

Rights groups argue the arrests and sentences were politically motivated by a government looking to crack down on anarchist and anti-fascist groups.

Yevgenia Kulakova, Filinkov’s lawyer, said the defense would appeal the verdict.

“The materials of this case were fabricated not only at the stage of the preliminary investigation, but the court itself falsified the materials,” Kulakova said.

Protests against the jail sentences

The verdict on Monday sparked protests, with up to 80 people gathering near the courthouse and chanting “Shame!” and “Freedom for political prisoners!”

The protesters also set off smoke bombs.

“They are not guilty of terrorism,” reported news agency the Associated Press, citing Filip Shchelkanov, one of the supporters of the group.

About 30 people were detained at the protests against the rulings, reported AP.

kmm/rc (AP,AFP) (DW)