Russian opposition activist jailed for 8 years on drug charge

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 28, 2012 9:22 AM
Russian opposition activist jailed for 8 years on drug charge

By Steve Gutterman

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian opposition activist was jailed for eight years for selling drugs on Tuesday, double the prison term requested by prosecutors in a case her husband said was revenge for the couple's criticism of the authorities.

A judge in the western city of Smolensk issued the sentence against Taisiya Osipova following a retrial ordered after Dmitry Medvedev, then president and now prime minister, said the 10-year term she was given last year was too severe.

Opposition figures said Tuesday's decision was part of a clampdown on dissent following Vladimir Putin's return to the presidency in May. Leftist opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov called it "monstrous" in a Twitter post.

"The Osipova sentence is the nightmare that is enveloping all of us," tweeted Nikolai Polozov, a lawyer for the three members of punk band Pussy Riot who were jailed for two years this month over a protest against Putin in a Moscow church.

Osipova, 28, who has been in jail since her arrest in 2010, maintained her innocence throughout the case, saying drugs were planted on her.

She was one of several people on a list of what organizers of a series of big opposition protests last winter said were political prisoners.

The Smolensk regional court in February threw out the guilty verdict from Osipova's original trial in December and ordered a retrial, saying the case against her had not been proven and calling for further investigation. The decision came a month after Medvedev's comment, but there was no official connection.

Osipova and her supporters had hoped for an acquittal or suspended sentence at retrial, and it was not clear why the judge sentenced her to eight years when prosecutors had requested four.

"The authorities are simply taking revenge on my wife," Ekho Moskvy radio quoted Osipova's husband, Sergei Fomchenkov, as saying. He said she would appeal.

Fomchenkov is a leader of opposition group Other Russia and Osipova is an activist with the group.

Ekho Moskvy said the prosecution's case was based on five alleged instances incriminating Osipova and that the court had refused to consider three of them, including one involving a police search during which a witness testified that drugs were planted.

The radio station said the guilty verdict at retrial was based on testimony of witnesses whose identities were not revealed by the court but who opposition leaders alleged were pro-Kremlin activists.

Opposition activists say there has been crackdown on dissent in the past few months, including new laws intended to restrict their actions such as tighter control of the Internet and higher potential fines for protesters.

They also say the two-year jail term for the Pussy Riot trio for "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" was disproportionate and politically motivated.

The Kremlin denies any clampdown and says it did not interfere in the Pussy Riot trial.

(Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Pravin Char)