A Russian court has found eight people guilty of rioting and directing violence at police during a protest on the eve of President Vladimir Putin's third inauguration in 2012. The men have not yet been sentenced.
The Zamoskvoretsky district court in Moscow on Friday found the eight defendants guilty of "mass riots" and behaving violently against police in what has become known asthe Bolotnaya case.
The men on trial were arrested during clashes at an anti-Putin protest in Moscow’s Bolotnaya square on May 6, 2012. The following day, Putin was sworn in for a third Kremlin term.
The case hasdragged on since the summer of 2012
and has widely been seen as a symbol of the Kremlin’s crackdown on the opposition and dissent.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have condemned the charges as inappropriate and the case as politically motivated.
The trial had previously included 12 people but four were released after qualifying for a government-backed general amnesty in December.
Prosecutors have asked for prison terms of up to six years for defendants Sergei Krivov and Alexandra Naumova.
Also facing prison terms are protesters Andrei Barabanov, Alexander Polikhovich, Artyom Savyolov, Stepan Zimin, Denis Lutskevich and Artyom Belousov.
The probe into the Bolotnaya clashes has already seen one person sentenced to four-and-a-half years on similar charges and a second committed to a psychiatric hospital.
Support for the defendants
Tensions were high and security was tight ahead of Friday's pronouncement. Police guarding the courthouse arrested around 200 people protesting the trial (pictured above). Many shouted, "Shame to the police."
Two women from theRussian protest band Pussy Riot
were reportedly in the crowd along with Alexei Navalny, an opposition leader who isserving a suspended sentence
after a trial last year which he contends was politically motivated in retaliation for challenging Putin.
hc/ipj (Reuters, AFP)