7 Opposition Activists Sentenced in Russia

National Bolsheviks behind bars at the Tagansky District Court. Source: nazbol.ruOn March 24th, Moscow’s Tagansky District Court sentenced seven opposition activists over a street demonstration held outside the same court building nearly two years ago. As the Sobkor®ru news agency reports, the seven activists, who are members of the banned National Bolshevik Party, received jail terms ranging from 1 ½ to 2 ½ years. They were convicted of hooliganism and weapons charges.

The National Bolshevik Party, led by Eduard Limonov, is a member of The Other Russia coalition, and is known for staging public political stunts, and vocal demonstrations against Moscow authorities. The group has faced harsh reprisals from the Kremlin, and several activists have been jailed for terms that many many consider excessive.

The Tagansky activists, including local National Bolshevik leader Roman Popkov, were originally imprisoned in April 2006 after an alleged physical provocation from a pro-Kremlin youth group. The activists were demonstrating against a court hearing that would ultimately ban the National Bolshevik Party. They maintain that the ensuing fight was an act of self-defense, and that the pro-Kremlin youth had attempted an attack on Limonov as he exited the court.

The activists’ attorney, Dmitri Agranovsky, said that he was dissatisfied with the decision. “I understand that everything could have been much worse, yet as an attorney I cannot come to terms with the fact that innocent people have been imprisoned for several years already,” he said. Prosecutors had suggested sentences of up to five years.

Another group of activists protested the court decision outside the building, lighting flares and unfurling a banner that read “Freedom for the National Bolsheviks!” They chanted “Freedom to political prisoners” and “Russia without prisons.” Three protesters were detained.