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Freedom House Condemns Politically Motivated Prison Sentences Imposed on Protesters
In response to the harsh prison sentences imposed on protesters who participated in a July 27 demonstration against the disqualification of opposition Moscow City Duma candidates, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“The unprecedented multiyear prison sentences handed down to protesters were egregious, meant to discourage others from voicing their opinions and defending themselves against violent police retribution during protests,” said Marc Behrendt, director for Europe and Eurasia programs at Freedom House. “These individuals presented little to no threat to the security personnel, who were assaulting peaceful demonstrators. As the authorities continue to disproportionately use physical and legal force to crack down on dissenting voices, they further undermine the already precarious social contract in Russia.”
On September 4 -5 , two protesters were sentenced in Moscow district courts for their actions during the July 27 protest against the disqualification of nearly all viable opposition and independent candidates running for the Moscow City Duma. At the demonstration, security personnel attacked protesters with batons and chemical irritants. Kirill Zhukov was sentenced to three years in prison for pulling on the helmet of a riot police officer. Yevgeny Kovalenko was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for throwing a trash can at one police officer and shoving another. On September 3, two other protesters received prison sentences for alleged attacks on the police during the demonstration. The Russian human rights watchdog Memorial has identified nine political prisoners in the case. Konstantin Kotov was sentenced to four years in prison for multiple protest-related violations. Other individuals involved in the protest have been placed under house arrest.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.