A Russian court has handed down a suspended sentence to an activist accused of membership in an undesirable organization, as part of authorities’ efforts to strengthen control over the political scene of nations.
Prosecutors had asked a court in Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia to sentence Shevchenko to five years in prison, but the court granted her a four-year suspended sentence.
Shevchenko, a mother of two who has been under house arrest for two years, has denied the allegations as a political punishment for her oppositional views. When she was placed under house arrest in January 2019, authorities waited for several days before letting Shevchenko visit her eldest teenage daughter who was in critical condition at a hospital and died a day after she was finally allowed to saw.
The Shevchenkos case has attracted widespread attention across the country, marking the first attempt by authorities to prosecute under a 2015 law that introduces criminal penalties for membership in undesirable organizations. The government has used the law to ban about 30 groups, including Open Russia, as undesirable.
He pursued another law that required non-governmental organizations that receive foreign funding and engage in activities that are freely described as political to register as foreign agents. “
The laws have been widely criticized as part of the Kremlin’s efforts to stifle dissent, but Russian authorities have described them as an appropriate response to alleged Western attempts to undermine the country.
Amnesty International, which has declared Shevchenko a prisoner of conscience, denounced the court ruling, saying she had not committed any crime.
“This decision is a betrayal of justice,” Natalya Zviagina, head of the group’s office in Moscow, said in a statement. She should never have been deprived of her liberty in the first place, as she had been criminally prosecuted only for the peaceful exercise of her human rights Her obedience should be broken.
Zviagina called for the repeal of laws on undesirable organizations and foreign agents, saying they have been inadvertently abused to suppress peaceful dissent.
“Russian authorities’s politically motivated persecution of peaceful activists must stop immediately,” she said.
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