MOSCOW – A Russian opposition activist was sentenced Tuesday to eight years in prison in a review of her drug-related case — twice as long as prosecutors had requested in a ruling that drew immediate opposition outrage.
Taisiya Osipova and her supporters have maintained that police planted four grams of heroin in her home in 2010 in revenge for her refusal to testify against her husband, Sergei Fomchenkov, also a senior figure in The Other Russia opposition movement. A witness for the defense testified at the trial that he saw a police officer put the drugs in Osipova's apartment.
Osipova had originally been sentenced to 10 years, but a higher court ordered a review of her case.
Tuesday's unexpectedly harsh verdict comes two weeks after three members of punk provocateur band Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison for a surprise anti-Vladimir Putin performance in Moscow's main cathedral. The decision sparked criticism in Russia and abroad as disproportionate.
It's also being viewed as an ominous sign ahead of the trial of 11 people who were arrested on suspicion of taking part in clashes with the police at a protest rally in May this year.
Eduard Limonov, the leader of The Other Russia party, told Interfax on Tuesday that "this verdict is not only a political one, it's also terrifying revenge."
Fomchenkov reported the verdict on his Twitter account. The court in Smolensk was not available to confirm the verdict.
Prosecutors had asked for four years in prison for Osipova.
Osipova, 28, has been in jail since her arrest in 2010 and was originally sentenced to 10 years in prison in December 2011. A higher court in February overturned that decision, ordering the review of her case, while Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in an interview that the sentence was too harsh.
Left-wing opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov described the verdict in his Twitter as "a triumph of lawlessness and cynicism."
Osipova was one of the most prominent names on a list of people activists described as political prisoners submitted to then-President Medvedev in February.
Mikhail Fedotov, head of the presidential council on human rights, in an interview with the Interfax news agency on Tuesday described the verdict as a "legal mistake."
Like her husband Osipova is a member of The Other Russia, although he hasn't been active since her daughter was born in 2006.
Opposition activists have staged regular protests against Osipova's prosecution, arguing that charges against Osipova were aimed to pressure her for information on her husband, Limonov's right hand man, who was trying to get the movement officially registered as a political party at the time of her arrest.
Osipova's supporters also said that witnesses confirmed police discovering drugs at Osipova's place were members of pro-Kremlin youth groups.
Police searched Fomchenkov's Moscow apartment shortly before Osipova's arrest in connection with "an economic case," details of which were never communicated to the Other Russian functionary.
Osipova's lawyers on Tuesday pledged to appeal the ruling. The Other Russia activists are planning one-man pickets across Moscow on Saturday to protest the verdict.