Russia jails rights activist for 'discrediting army'

Staff WritersReuters
Oleg Orlov decried the "strangulation of freedom" in Russia before being sentenced to prison. (AP PHOTO)
Camera IconOleg Orlov decried the "strangulation of freedom" in Russia before being sentenced to prison. (AP PHOTO) Credit: AP

Veteran human rights activist Oleg Orlov has been sentenced by a Moscow court to two-and-a-half years in prison after he was found guilty of discrediting the Russian army in a trial that has been condemned by international observers as politically motivated.

Orlov, 70, has served for more than two decades as one of the leaders of rights group Memorial.

It won a share of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022, a year after being banned and dissolved in Russia.

Memorial said Orlov was handcuffed after the verdict on Tuesday and the court ordered him to be taken immediately into custody.

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In his closing remarks to the trial on Monday, Orlov decried the "strangulation of freedom" in Russia, which he referred to as a "dystopia".

The case against him stemmed from an article he wrote in 2022 in which he denouncing the invasion of Ukraine and said Russia under President Vladimir Putin had descended into fascism.

He was initially fined 150,000 roubles ($A2500) by a district court last year but a retrial was ordered and prosecutors sought a jail sentence of two years and 11 months.

The UN special rapporteur on human rights in Russia, Mariana Katzarova, called Orlov's trial "an orchestrated attempt to silence the voices of human rights defenders in Russia".

Memorial, founded in 1989, has documented human rights abuses from the time of Soviet leader Josef Stalin to the present and defended freedom of speech, with a focus on identifying and honouring individual victims.

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