Russian blogger sentenced to five years over ‘extremist’ tweet

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Vladislav Sinitsa, 30, posted the tweets in the wake of a police crackdown against protesters who have called for free elections.

A Russian court on Tuesday sentenced a blogger to five years in a penal colony for a tweet calling for attacks on the children of police, a ruling his lawyer said was unprecedented.

Vladislav Sinitsa, 30, posted the tweets in the wake of a police crackdown against protesters who have called for free elections. 

“It’s an act of intimidation,” said lawyer Denis Tikhonov after a Moscow district court found Sinitsa guilty of inciting hatred. 

The charges fall under Russia’s harsh anti-extremism legislation. Tikhonov told AFP the sentence was “without precedent in its severity”. 

The ruling also comes in the context of an ongoing squeeze on internet freedoms in Russia, where social media remains one of the few places where the opposition can communicate with relative freedom.

Sinitsa, who regularly posted on Twitter under the pseudonym Max Steklov, was detained last month over a tweet he wrote on July 31.

Sinitsa, who is from a town outside Moscow, posted about attending several opposition protests and urged others to go to them.

In one tweet, a reply to a pro-Kremlin blogger, he imagined a situation in which people found the homes of law enforcement officers to kidnap and kill their children.

The post was picked up and reported on by pro-Kremlin media.

Russian investigators said, “the criminal intent of the defendant was aimed at arousing enmity and hatred towards all law enforcement officers and their family members”.

Sinitsa’s lawyer said his client admitted to writing “this controversial post” but rejected charges of extremism.

“He said this post was not a call to anyone, it was a conversation with a political opponent,” said Tikhonov.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny said in response to the verdict: “Sinitsa wrote a really dumb post about taking revenge on the children of police. Millions of such dumb posts are written every day.”

Navalny said he was constantly receiving such messages via social networks and called Russia “an idiot” for issuing such a verdict.

Sinitsa’s case was rushed through in a single hearing, which his lawyer said was highly unusual and deprived him of a fair trial. 

Prosecutors had asked for the maximum possible sentence of six years.

“It would have been fair to acquit him, at least not to put him in jail,” his mother told the independent channel TV Rain.

Russia has in recent years increasingly criminalised online content, frequently jailing people for sharing or publishing information deemed extremist or illegal. 

The law currently forbids the sharing of content judged extremist, though rights groups say this label is also applied to opposition material.

In July a court jailed a blogger from the industrial city of Tolyatti for one year for making “public calls for terrorism” with a tweet about a suicide bomb attack on the offices of the FSB security agency.

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