More than 2,000 cultural figures, professors, artists, and journalists in Russia have signed an open letter demanding freedom for seven young protestors jailed on terror charges on Monday.
The Central Russian Privolzhsky District Military Court in Penza sentenced the activists, all of whom were involved in anti-fascist and environmentalist group Set’ (“Network” in English), to between six and 18 years in penal colonies. They were accused of organising an anti-government coup, with multiple charges including “creating a terrorist organisation”, “participation in a terrorist organisation”, and illegal possession of arms. Three of the men were also charged with drug possession.
Human rights group Amnesty International slammed the charges as “absurd”, while the defendants said the “confessions” they had given to the police were obtained under torture.
In the open letter, protestors said that the verdict relied on “extremely dubious evidence”. “This frankly unjust sentence testifies to the complete paralysis of the independent judiciary in our country,” it reads. “Terror against one’s own citizens is incompatible with the normal development of our country and is detrimental to its science, culture, and education.”
In addition to the letter itself, a group of activists who participated in opposition Moscow protests in July also produced a series of videos in support of the men, whose trial has become known as “The Network Case”. The videos ask the question, “what would you admit to after 18 hours of electroshocks?” and present the activists’ own “testimonials” of false charges they’d been accused of by the Russian authorities.