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Human rights campaigner jailed for accusing Russian army of mass murder

Russian human rights activist Oleg Orlov (second from right) is cuffed and led away by police from a court in Moscow on Tuesday after being sentenced to two-and-half years in prison for 'repeatedly discrediting the Russian army." Photo by Sergei Ilnitsky/EPA-EFE
Russian human rights activist Oleg Orlov (second from right) is cuffed and led away by police from a court in Moscow on Tuesday after being sentenced to two-and-half years in prison for 'repeatedly discrediting the Russian army." Photo by Sergei Ilnitsky/EPA-EFE

Feb. 27 (UPI) -- A Moscow court sentenced Russian human rights activist Oleg Orlov on Tuesday to 30 months in prison for criticizing the war against Ukraine.

The 70-year-old leader of the banned Memorial human rights group was convicted on charges he had repeatedly discredited the Russian army by accusing its troops of "mass murder" in Ukraine and writing that his country was once again a "totalitarian" state.

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Orlov used his closing statement to insist had not committed any crime and was not sorry for any of his actions.

"We know the real reason why we're being detained, tried, arrested, sentenced and killed," he said referencing Alexei Navalny's unexplained death in a Siberian prison Feb. 16. which Orlov said was murder.

"We are being punished for daring to criticize the authorities. In present-day Russia this is absolutely prohibited," said Orlov who has also been highly outspoken on the crackdown on civil liberties and the chilling effect that has had on dissent.

He warned the judge and the prosecutor that they could well be next pointing out that "sooner or later, the machine of repression may roll over those who launched it and drove it forward?

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"That's what happened many times throughout history."

The founder of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization was originally convicted and fined $1,630 in October but a higher court declared a mistrial after prosecutors appealed for a harsher sentence.

Orlov protested his treatment by spending his time in court reading a copy of Franz Kafka's classic dystopian novel "The Trial," which has no ending.

Last week, sociologist Boris Kagarlitsky was jailed for five years after being convicted of "publicly justifying" an October 2022 "terror" attack on a bridge in Crimea, joining opposition leader and Navalny ally Ilya Yashin who is serving eight-and-a-haf years in prison for a YouTube video about alleged war crimes in Bucha at the start of the war.

In April, Vladimir Kara-Murza, former aid to the assassinated opposition leader Boris Nemtsov and an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin's regime and anti-war campaigner was jailed for 25 years for treason.

A woman with dual U.S.-Russian citizenship is currently being held by the Federal Security Service, the successor to the KGB, on suspicion of high treason for raising money to support Ukraine's armed forces.

The unnamed 33-year-old American was arrested on Feb. 20 in the city of Yekaterinburg 1,120 miles east of Moscow for illegally "providing financial assistance to a foreign state in activities directed against the security of our country," the state-run Tass news agency reported.

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