This month, a Russian court convicted eight Bolotnaya Square protestors of rioting and violence against police and sentenced seven of them to jail terms of between two-and-a-half to four years.
On May 6, 2012, thousands of Russians – teachers, students, scientists, athletes, pensioners – took to the streets of Moscow to demand fair elections and government accountability. This month, a Russian court convicted eight of those Bolotnaya Square protestors of rioting and violence against police and sentenced seven of them to jail terms of between two-and-a-half to four years. Lawyers for the defendants said they would appeal.
In several protests that followed the sentencing February 24, police detained hundreds of protesters. Several protestors, including opposition figure Aleksey Navalny and opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, face seven to 15 days of jail time for their participation in the protests.
U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said the Bolotnaya Square trials are another example of Russians being punished for exercising their constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of speech and assembly. The U.S. calls on the Russian government to demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law by correcting this injustice.
The rights group Amnesty International called the guilty verdict a "hideous injustice." The head of the human rights group's Moscow office, Sergi Nikitin, told the press that the February 24 sentences were a "parody of justice" and called for the immediate release of those convicted.
There have been numerous prosecutions of activists, journalists, and opposition politicians since 2012, including the recent case of environmental activist Yvgeniy Vitishko, sentenced to three years in jail for reportedly spray-painting a fence.
The United States continues to support the rights of all Russian citizens to exercise their fundamental freedoms, regardless of their political views.