A Moscow court has sentenced three activists to prison for plotting to overthrow President Vladimir Putin, in a case that has sparked protests and allegations of police overreach.
Ruslan Kostylenkov, 27, has been sentenced to to seven years in a penal colony, Pyotr Karamzin, 34, has been sentenced for 6.5 years and Vyacheslav Kryukov, 22, for six years for creating an extremist group.
The case gained traction in 2018 when authorities detained 10 people and accused them of belonging to an anarchist cell called the 'New Greatness' that was planning an uprising against the government.
All three men had been in pre-trial detention since March 2018.
From left to right: Vyacheslav Kryukov, Ruslan Kostylenkov and Pyotr Karamzin stand inside a glass cage prior to the verdict announcement on extremism charges at the Lyublinsky district court in Moscow, Russia, today
The group's supporters say the case was fabricated by the FSB security service and that agents infiltrated the group, financed operations and coerced its members into renting office space and creating a charter.
Defence lawyers maintained that an undercover police agent wrote the group's radical program.
Prominent Russian rights group Memorial has pronounced the young men and women political prisoners.
Four others received suspended sentences of 4 to 6.5 years on the same charge, according to an AFP journalist in the courtroom.
Police arrested at least three people outside the court protesting against the trial.
One dressed in a police uniform cut the throat of a mannequin before being wrestled to the ground by police.
The case gained traction in 2018 when authorities detained 10 people and accused them of belonging to an anarchist cell called the 'New Greatness' that was planning an uprising against the government
Activist Pavel Krisevich (L) stages a performance outside Moscow's Lyublinsky District Court ahead of the sentence hearing for the Novoye Velichiye extremist group
'We all know that an illegal act is being committed in this court,' the demonstrator shouted.
'We all know that the state only wants blood.'
The ruling comes as critics of Putin cry foul over an increasing number of high-profile terror and treason cases deemed to be politically motivated by activists and human rights monitors.
In February, seven young anarchists and anti-fascists were sentenced to between six and 18 years in prison on terror and other charges after saying they were tortured in custody.
The FSB security services detained a respected ex-journalist Ivan Safronov last month on treason charges, while another journalist, Svetlana Prokopyeva, was found guilty of justifying terrorism.