Controversial Russian extremism case ends with conviction

MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian court yesterday convicted several members of a youth group on extremism charges widely seen by critics as fabricated.

Moscow’s Lyublino District Court found members of the New Greatness group guilty of creating an extremist organisation. A sentence is expected later.

Prosecutors asked the court to sentence three members to terms of six to seven-and-a-half years in prison, and to give four other members suspended sentences between four and six-and-a-half years.

They were arrested in March 2018 on charges of creating an extremist organisation aiming to overthrow the government. Defence lawyers maintained that an undercover police agent wrote the group’s radical programme, effectively fabricating the case against young people with opposition views who were just meeting to discuss politics.

The case has been criticised by human rights advocates as a glaring example of police abuse and politically motivated application of Russia’s anti-extremism laws.

The arrests of the two youngest members — 17-year-old Anna Pavlikova and 19-year-old Maria Dubovik — prompted a big protest in August 2018, after which the two teens were released under house arrest. A member who remained in jail said he was beaten and tortured by police.