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Moscow court sends 7 to prison for protest rally

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    Member of the Pussy Riot punk group, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, center, speaks to a police officer outside Zamoskvoretsky District Court in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, where hearings started against opposition activists detained on May 6, 2012 during the rally at Bolotnaya Square. A Moscow judge on Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, convicted eight anti-government protesters of rioting during a 2012 protest against Vladimir Putin, following a trial seen as part of the Kremlin's efforts to stifle dissent. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

    <ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • APTOPIX-Russia-Opposition-Trial-1

    Russian police officers detain member of the Pussy Riot punk group, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, center, as the other member Maria Alekhina looks on from right outside a court room in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, where hearings started against opposition activists detained on May 6, 2012 during a rally at Bolotnaya Square. A Moscow judge on Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, convicted eight anti-government protesters of rioting during a 2012 protest against Vladimir Putin, following a trial seen as part of the Kremlin's efforts to stifle dissent. (AP Photo/Denis Tyrin)

    <ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Russia-Opposition-Trial-3

    Russian police officers detain opposition activists outside a court room in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, where hearings started against opposition activists detained on May 6, 2012 during a rally at Bolotnaya Square. A Moscow judge on Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, convicted eight anti-government protesters of rioting during a 2012 protest against Vladimir Putin, following a trial seen as part of the Kremlin's efforts to stifle dissent. (AP Photo/Denis Tyrin)

    <ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Russia-Opposition-Trial-4

    A defendant stands behind bars in a cage at a court room in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, where hearings started against opposition activists detained on May 6, 2012 during a rally at Bolotnaya Square. A Moscow judge on Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, convicted eight anti-government protesters of rioting during a 2012 protest against Vladimir Putin, following a trial seen as part of the Kremlin's efforts to stifle dissent. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

    <ASSOCIATED PRESS

MOSCOW  — A Russian court handed down prison sentences today of up to four years for seven people who took part in a 2012 protest against Vladimir Putin. An eighth defendant received a suspended sentence.

Hundreds of their supporters gathered outside the courthouse to condemn the trial and the Kremlin’s crackdown on opposition. Police detained about 200 of them, accusing them of violating public order.

Among those detained were members of the punk band Pussy Riot who had spent nearly two years in prison as punishment for their own anti-Putin protest.

The defendants sentenced today were among 28 people rounded up after the May 6, 2012, protest on the eve of Putin’s inauguration for a third presidential term. The rally turned violent after police restricted access to Bolotnaya Square, across the river from the Kremlin, where the protesters had permission to gather.

The eight defendants were found guilty last week, but sentencing was postponed until today. All have been in custody for nearly two years except for Anastasia Dukhanina, 20, who was under house arrest. She was given a suspended sentence.

Dmitry Agranovsky, the lawyer for Andrei Belousov, a 22-year-old student sentenced to 2 ½ half years in prison, said he believed the harsh punishment was in part a Kremlin reaction to the violent protests in neighboring Ukraine that ousted an unpopular government last week.

During its reports on the trial, Russian state television showed footage of the 2012 Moscow protest alongside bloody images of beaten protesters and police in Ukraine, with the unspoken message that this could have been Russia.

Investigators accused Belousov of throwing an “unidentified yellow object of spherical shape” at police during the protest. He said it was just a lemon.

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