2017-05-11 16:10:00

Lawyer sees suspended sentence for blogger Sokolovsky as victory, plans to challenge conviction

Moscow, May 11, Interfax - The defense team for blogger Ruslan Sokolovsky is planning to challenge the sentence that the Verkh-Isetsky District Court of Yekaterinburg has given to him by convicting him of extremism and insulting religious feelings of believers, in every court instance, up to the Strasbourg court, Sokolovsky's lawyer Alexey Bushmakov told Interfax.

"This is an obvious victory in the Russian reality we have today. Sokolovsky remains free. At any rate, the defense team considers this sentence unlawful and unfounded and will appeal it at the Sverdlovsk Regional Court," Bushmakov said on Thursday.

Earlier in the day, Judge Yekaterina Shoponyak gave Sokolovsky a suspended sentence of three years and six months in jail. The court found him guilty on all charges, including insulting religious feelings of believers and inciting hatred, but ordered a punishment not involving an actual prison term.

"From the perspective of the European Convention on Human Rights, the law enforcement authorities and the court committed obvious violations with regard to this criminal case," Bushmakov said.

"The defense lawyers simply have to turn to the ECHR [European Court of Human Rights] with an application over such acts of the court and the investigators, and one of such applications has already been placed in Strasburg. It was filed over the unfair detention of Sokolovsky. Hence we have a guilty verdict, Sokolovsky will suffer all restrictions as stipulated in the case of any activity allegedly related to extremism," he said.

Bushmakov went on to explain that it means Sokolovsky being put on the so-called extremist list and facing various restrictions, including a bank accounts freeze, i.e. restrictions on uses of funds, and restricted right to travel, as well as multiple bans, including those regarding public service and incorporation of non-profit organizations or foundations.

In Bushmakov's view, "the Ruslan Sokolovsky case is the top political case in modern Russia".

"It [the case] is important also because it is setting a precedent. Those subjects that he approaches in his works and in his videos are eternal, are always question-begging and full of conflict. But in modern Russia, any kind of discussion on the subject of religion, on the subject of power and the president is considered criminal, and therefore people are prosecuted for expressing their views and beliefs," Bushmakov said.