Feb. 10 (UPI) -- A Russian military court Monday convicted seven young anti-fascist and anarchist men on terrorism charges an international human rights group said were fabricated.
The seven men standing trial in Penza are among 11 the Federal Security Service (FSB) accused in 2017 of planning bomb attacks at the 2018 World Cup soccer tournament in Russia and other attacks leading up to the 2018 presidential election. Four other defendants are still awaiting a verdict from a St. Petersburg military court.
Defendants convicted on terrorism charges, ranging in age from 23 to 31, included Dmitry Pchelintsev, Arman Sagynbaev, Vasily Kuskov, Mikhail Kulkov, Maxim Ivankin, Andrey Chernov and Ilya Shakursky.
They were enthusiasts of airsoft, a game similar to pinball. The FSB, a successor agency to the KGB, said the games were a form of training for the men they accused of organizing a terrorist group called "Network."
Investigators said Pchelinstev and Shakursky were leaders of a group accused of terrorism-related attacks, and they received the longest sentences of 18 and 16 years respectively, in maximum security, with overall prison sentences ranging from six to 18 years.
"These terror charges are a figment of the Russian security services' imagination that was fabricated in an attempt to silence these activists," Natalia Prilutskaya, Amnesty International Russia's researcher, said in the statement. "The trial has been a sham -- the men say their confessions were extracted by torture and the so-called evidence contradicted by the facts."
Prilutskaya added that the terrorist group was nonexistent.
"It is clear from the trial that no criminal organization called 'Network' has ever existed," she said. "What has probably existed is a loose group of young like-minded people interested in playing airsoft. There is no evidence linking them to terrorism-related activities."
"This case is the latest politically-motivated abuse of the justice system to target young people," she added. "The allegations of torture and ill-treatment must be investigated, the men must be released, and the Russian government must stop resorting to fabricating criminal charges to silence all dissent."