Two Russian political activists have gone on trial in Moscow, accused of plotting mass disorder in connection with violent protests against Vladimir Putin after his inauguration in 2012.
Sergei Udaltsov, leader of the Left Front movement, has been under house arrest for a year.
Also charged is Leonid Razvozzhayev, an aide to an opposition MP. He was abducted by Russian agents in Ukraine according to an Amnesty International report, and allegedly tortured.
Both are accused of meeting Georgian politician Givi Targamadze over funding for anti-Putin protests.
Prosecutors argue the pair organised riots whose goal was to undermine security and stability in Russia.
The allegations are based on a TV documentary – Anatomy Of A Protest 2 – which was broadcast on NTV, a channel owned by Russia’s Gazprom gas monopoly and seen as being close to the Kremlin.
The programme prompted an investigation by Russia’s federal Investigative Committee.
But many saw it as an attempt to discredit the opposition. The defence argue the charges against the activists are politically motivated.
“I suppose we have no chance because political as well as legal arguments will come into force in this case. We’ll see to what extent this court will be fair, and although I’m pessimistic towards the judicial system and have very little hope, it’s possible something could happen, something will change,” said Udaltsov’s lawyer Violetta Volkova.
The start of the trial brought a small protest outside the court by the activists’ supporters.
If convicted, Udaltsov and Razvozzhayev could face up to 10 years in jail.