Taisiya Osipova sits in court in Smolensk, Russia, where she was sentenced… (Mitya Aleshkovskiy/ Associated…)
MOSCOW — A Russian court Tuesday sentenced an opposition activist to eight years in prison on drug charges, doubling the time sought by prosecutors in a case government critics call trumped-up retaliation.
Taisiya Osipova, 28, and her supporters insist police planted 4 grams of heroin in her apartment as retaliation for her antigovernment activism. Osipova and her husband, Sergei Fomchenkov, were senior members of the Other Russia opposition party in Smolensk, about 230 miles southwest of Moscow. In 2008 Osipova left politics to raise her daughter. Fomchenkov is still an active party member.
Police arrested Osipova in October 2010. Last year she was given a 10-year jail term but former President Dmitry Medvedev said in January that the punishment was too harsh and asked that the case be reviewed. The Smolensk court reopened the case in February.
Osipova's defense will appeal Tuesday's decision, Russian news reports said.
The Osipova sentencing came less than two weeks after three members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot received two-year prison sentences for performing an anti-President Vladimir Putin "punk prayer" in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral. In another case, 11 people have been jailed and will soon be tried for allegedly inciting violence at an antigovernment protest in Bolotnaya Square on May 6.
Mikhail Fedotov, head of the presidential council on human rights, told Interfax news agency that the result of the Osipova case is a "legal mistake." Human rights activist and Helsinki Group leader Lyudmila Alekseyeva said she was "shocked" by the sentence.
"They are getting bestial. That means that a harsh line was defined at the top toward any dissidence. They are trying to scare. Unfortunately, all the latest events testify to this — the Osipova conviction, the Pussy Riot sentencing, and the investigation of the events on Bolotnaya on May 6," Alekseyeva said Tuesday.
While Osipova's case is different from Pussy Riot's, the severity of the punishments unites them, said opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov, who attended the trial in Smolensk.
"They are all young women, some have children," Udaltsov said. "Each sentence adds new supporters to the opposition. They can't scare everyone."
Narizhnaya is a special correspondent.