Court In Russia Sentences Tatar Activist To Three Years In Prison

KAZAN -- A court in Kazan, the capital of Russia's Tatarstan region, has sentenced a local activist to three years in prison for inciting hatred on the Internet, inflicting bodily harm, and hooliganism -- charges which rights groups say are fabricated.

The Vakhit district court found Danis Safargali guilty on August 31 and sentenced him the same day.

Safargali, the leader of the Tatar patriotic movement Altyn Urda (The Golden Horde), denies all charges.

He was arrested in October 2016.

Memorial, a Moscow-based human rights center, has called Safargali a political prisoner.

In an August 29 statement, Memorial said that Safargali is "a victim of a persecution campaign against opposition activists of the Tatar national movement...that has been launched since 2014."

Investigators say his 15 posts on the Internet in which he criticized the Russian government, President Vladimir Putin, and Moscow's illegal annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region in March 2014 can be defined as incitement to hatred.

The two other charges are linked to an alleged brawl that took place in Kazan in April 2016.

Safargali insisted that his son was being beaten by two attackers, who also attacked his pregnant wife. He said he had to intervene in the incident but denied that he had beaten the attackers.

Memorial called on authorities to immediately release Safargali, to drop the charge of inciting hatred, and fairly investigate his involvement in the alleged brawl.