MOSCOW (Reuters) – A Moscow court sentenced a protester to four years in prison on Thursday for “repeated” participation in unauthorised rallies, under a widely criticised law that has made non-violent protests a criminal offence.
The court said Konstantin Kotov, a 34-year-old programmer, “disregarded basic constitutional principles” because he kept taking part in unauthorised protests after being found guilty of violating legislation on public gatherings.
Holding protests without official permission was previously punishable by a fine, but rules adopted after mass protests in Moscow following President Vladimir Putin’s 2012 election made it a jailable offence to do so more than twice in 180 days. The law has also been applied to those participating in protests.
Law enforcement bodies have rarely used the law since 2017, when the Supreme Court freed anti-Kremlin activist Ildar Dadin, the first person sent to prison under the new rule.
Kotov is the fifth protester sentenced to prison in the last three days ahead of a Moscow election on Sunday. The other four were convicted of using violence against the police.
Protesters have demanded that a slew of opposition-minded candidates be allowed to take part in the election, which the authorities have refused to permit.
(Reporting by Dmitry Madorsky; Writing by Maria Tsvetkova; Editing by Hugh Lawson)