Outrage as opposition activist gets 8 years in jail

A Smolensk court has sentenced political activist Taisiya Osipova – a member of the unregistered Other Russia Party – to eight years in prison for drug dealing. The party and defense lawyers insist the case was trumped-up.

The attorneys are set to appeal the verdict and seek Osipova’s acquittal.

Tuesday’s sentence by the Smolensk Zadneprovsky district court is harsher than that requested by the state prosecutor, who only sought four years behind bars for Osipova.

Opposition activist and the leader of Left Front movement Sergey Udaltsov was at the the court to support Osipova. He told Silver Rain radio station he was “shocked” by the ruling, which he described as “terrible” and “inadequate.”

The leader of the Other Russia Party – the long-time dissident and writer Eduard Limonov – said the verdict is “not only politically-motivated, it’s also revenge.” In his comment to the Interfax agency, the politician vowed that Other Russia will use all possible legal means to get the sentence reduced or cancelled.

A State Duma deputy for the ruling United Russia party, Irina Yarovaya says she sees no political motives behind the case.

“Taisiya Osipova’s case is a drug dealing case and that is how it should be taken,” she told Interfax. In her opinion, any attempts to justify the narcotics trade by “some political motives look insane.” The lawmaker added that she is confident that “parents of young people that Osipova was selling heroin to absolutely don’t care” what organization she is member of.

“For the society and law she is simply a criminal and must be answerable for her crime,” Yarovaya stated.

High-profile case

Osipova, 28, was arrested on November 25, 2010 on suspicion of drug dealing after police found nine grams of heroin in her house in Smolensk. On December 29, 2011, she was sentenced to ten years in a penal colony.

The case drew widespread public outcry from opposition activists who staged a number of protests demanding her release.

In February this year, the Smolensk regional court revoked the sentence and ordered a new trial.

The announcement was made shortly after the then President Dmitry Medvedev called the sentence “too harsh” for a woman who suffers from diabetes and is the mother of a six-year-old daughter. He said he was ready to request prosecutors analyze the case materials all over again.

On Tuesday, Medvedev’s press-secretary Natalya Timakova said the now Prime Minister has not changed his stance on Osipova’s case and considers it unacceptable “to interfere in judicial proceedings and put pressure on courts”.

“At the same time, in his opinion, any sentence must reflect the gravity of the crime, and his stance on Osipova's case remains unchanged,” she told Interfax.

Osipova’s defense lawyers and the Other Russia Party claim the police planted the drugs on her.

They state the charges against the woman are based on testimony by law enforcement agents and witnesses who are active members of pro-Kremlin youth movements. The only witness who is not related to either of those, Anton Mandrik, confirmed the supporters' version and later successfully passed a lie-detector test.

The Interior Ministry denied all of Mandrik’s accusations, saying he was intoxicated when the police searched Osipova’s house. They said the same day he was delivered to a regional drug abuse clinic where it was confirmed the 31-year-old was high on drugs.

The Defense also insisted that the case was fabricated to put pressure on Osipova's husband – a senior Other Russia member Sergey Fomchenkov – to interfere with the registration of the opposition party, Interfax writes. In 2011 Osipova claimed that her sentencing was a revenge for her own political activity. The Interior Ministry denied the case was in any way political.