RFE/RL – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Author)
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- The prosecutor at the high-profile trial of two activists from a group known as "Set" (Network) has recommended to a court in St. Petersburg that they be sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
The prosecutor on June 17 urged the court in Russia’s second-largest city to find the two defendants guilty of being members of a terrorist organization and to sentence Viktor Filinkov to nine years, and Yury Boyarshinov to six years in prison.
Boyarshinov has pleaded guilty saying that he did not know Network was a terrorist group when he joined it.
Filinkov has rejected the charge, saying that his initial guilty plea was given under duress.
The two men went on trial in late February. Opposition figures and rights defenders have called the case against the group "fabricated."
Russian investigators said the group planned to organize a series of explosions in Russia during the presidential election and the World Cup soccer tournament in 2018 "to destabilize the situation" in the country and to organize an armed mutiny.
Rights activists have said the charges are false, while some of those arrested have claimed they were tortured while in custody. The Investigative Committee has rejected the claims.
In February, a court in another Russian city, Penza, sentenced seven other activists of the group to prison terms of between six years and 18 years after convicting them of terrorism.
The group members were arrested in October 2017 for allegedly creating a terrorist group with cells in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Penza, and Omsk, as well as in neighboring Belarus.
Belarusian authorities told RFE/RL in February that they weren’t aware of a Network cell existing in Belarus.
Amnesty International called the terror charges "a figment of the Russian security services' imagination...fabricated in an attempt to silence these activists."
The London-based human rights watchdog has called the case “the latest politically-motivated abuse of the justice system to target young people.”
Two other activists initially arrested in the case, Igor Shishkin and Yegor Zorin, made deals with the investigators and testified against the others.
Shishkin received 3 1/2 years in prison in January 2019, while the case against Zorin was closed in September 2018.
Copyright (c) 2010-2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.