Russian Blogger Sentenced Over LiveJournal Comment

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A young Russian blogger has been found guilty of “inciting hatred and enmity” over a comment left on a LiveJournal weblog, the Sobkor┬«ru news agency reports. Savva Terentyev, a resident of the northern city of Syktyvkar in the Komi Republic, was handed down a one year suspended sentence on Monday.

Terentyev’s case, the first of its kind in Russia, drew international attention from the start. After writing an animated, extremely tasteless comment suggesting corrupt militsiya officers be burned daily in every town center, the blogger was tracked and charged by local authorities. His alleged offense, inciting hatred and denigrating the human dignity of a social group (namely, the militsiya), seemed absurd to internet users familiar with the casual and frequently vulgar level of discourse found online. His maximum sentence, a significant fine and two years behind bars, seemed excessive.

After a convoluted trial where prosecutors struggled to find extremism in Terentyev’s words (a linguistic investigation commissioned by prosecutors was thrown out for procedural irregularities), authorities asked that the blogger receive a suspended sentence, or probation, of one and a half years. Lada Luzan, the state prosecutor, reasoned that neither a fine nor correctional labor were appropriate, since Terentyev has a low income and is employed. She also asked that Terentyev’s sentence be suspended, since he admitted authorship of the internet comment, which the prosecution was not expecting.

For his part, Terentyev remained unapologetic and maintained his innocence, pledging to appeal the ruling. During the trial, he described a distinction between scrupulous and unscrupulous police, and expressed his belief that law-enforcement officials who break the law and Constitution must be subject to “severe punishment.” Terentyev called his earlier suggestion that corrupt cops be burned in Auschwitz-like ovens “hyperbole and exaggeration,” and apologized to concentration camp victims and virtuous militsiya officers who he may have “involuntarily hurt with the contested commentary.”