MOSCOW Moscow courts have upheld pretrial restrictions for two activists arrested over an unsanctioned rally on July 27 and ordered four others held for two months.
The Moscow City Court said on October 16 it had upheld the decisions by a lower court to keep Yegor Zhukov under house arrest and Samariddin Radzhabov in pretrial detention.
Also on October 16, Moscow’s Basman district court sent four other activists, Vladimir Yemelyanov, Maksim Martintsov, Yegor Lesnykh, and Andrei Barshai, to two months’ pretrial detention on charges of assaulting a police officer during the rally.
Later in the day, the court ordered that Aleksandr Mylnikov be subject to house arrest, also for two months, on similar assault allegations related to the same protest.
Zhukov maintained his innocence at the hearing on October 16 and said that investigators had “distorted” his words.
“My words ‘violence is ineffective,’ the investigators interpreted them as if I called for forced change of the constitutional order,” Zhukov said.
Zhukov’s lawyer said at the hearing that the case against his client was “clearly politically motivated.”
Zhukov and Radzhabov were arrested along with several other activists over an unsanctioned rally held on July 27 to demand that officials allow independent candidates on the ballot in a September 8 municipal vote.
Initially, the two were charged with taking part in mass disorders, with Radzhabov charged additionally with the attempted assault of a law enforcement officer.
Later, the charge against Zhukov was dropped but he was then charged with a public call for extremist actions. Radzhabov’s charge was changed to threatening to assault a police officer.
Both Zhukov and Radzhabov maintain their innocence.
Zukhov has used his wildly popular YouTube channel to rage against the government of President Vladimir Putin and to promote various protest movements across the country.
In February, he announced his candidacy for the Moscow City Duma, promising to cede more authority to Muscovites over use of their taxes by the government.
Appearing at a protest against a controversial construction project at a park on Moscow’s outskirts the following month, he slammed corruption and described officials as “our enemies.”
Failing to gather the requisite number of signatures, he withdrew from the election, and pledged instead to support high profile opposition candidate Dmitry Gudkov.
Last month, Gudkov was one of around 30 independent candidates whose exclusion from the elections sparked the current protest wave, for which the 20 year old blogger has become one of the most vocal proponents.
Heavy Handed Tactics
Several sanctioned and unsanctioned rallies took place in Moscow over the summer in protest at a decision by authorities to deny independent and opposition candidates the chance to run in the municipal elections.
Dozens of protesters have been fined or given jail sentences for organizing and participating in the unsanctioned rallies.
Law enforcement has been criticized for its heavy handed tactics during the rallies, and the judiciary has since taken a similar hard line approach.
Five other men were charged with assaulting police and handed stiff sentences. In one case, after a sharp public outcry over the court’s approach, one of those convicted had his prison term changed to a suspended sentence.
On October 15, the Investigative Committee said it detained one more man, Aleksandr Mylnikov, suspected of attacking a law enforcement officer at the July 27 rally.
Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.