A Russian court on Wednesday sentenced a blogger to five years in jail for what it said was his extremist activity on the Internet after he urged people to attend a protest against high transport fares and criticised Russian intervention in Ukraine.
Vadim Tyumentsev, 35, from the Siberian region of Tomsk, was also banned from using the Internet for three years in a case which Russian human rights activists said violated his rights to a proper defense.
Tyumentsev irritated local authorities in Tomsk with a series of blogs in which he accused them of corruption and incompetence. He had also sharply criticized pro-Kremlin separatists in eastern Ukraine, saying he did not see why ordinary Russians should go and fight with them.
A statement from Tomsk’s regional court said Tyumentsev had urged people to overthrow the authorities, a reference to an appeal he made for people to attend an unsanctioned meeting to protest against a hike in local bus fares.
The Memorial human rights group said the jail sentence was “outrageous” and called for the verdict to be overturned.
Pavel Pryanikov, a prominent Russian blogger, said the verdict recalled the excesses of the Stalin era and such behavior should not be a criminal offense. “We have quietly returned to Stalinist sentencing for ‘thought crimes’,” he wrote.
Beginning of December, Aleksei Navalny, the 39-year-old lawyer, blogger, and former businessman, released a documentary movie made by his organisation, the Anti-Corruption Foundation, showing corruption at the highest levels of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
The investigation takes aim at an official with a high ranking in the hierarchy of Russian authority: Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika.
Navalny’s investigators allege that one of Chaika’s sons has illegally privatized Russian industrial facilities and used proceeds to invest in a luxury hotel in Greece and a villa in Switzerland. The other son won illicit state tenders for construction and development projects in Russia, the investigators charge.
Since Putin became president in 2000, the number of outlets for independent, nongovernment investigations — into crime, corruption, or anything else — has dwindled sharply. Among media, the newspaper Novaya Gazeta is one of only a few still doing substantive corruption investigations.
(with Reuters, AP)