The mother of a Russian blogger sentenced to five years in prison for extremism related to a social media posting has expressed shock at the punishment meted out to her son, suggesting it was meant to send a warning to Russia’s opposition.
A Moscow court on September 3 sentenced blogger Vladislav Sinitsa after finding him guilty of extremism and inciting violence against the children of police in a July 31 post on Twitter.
Using the pseudonym Max Steklov, Sinitsa wrote that law enforcement officers involved in clashes with pro-democracy demonstrators will "look at cute happy family photos...and then the child of a valiant law enforcement officer simply does not come from school one day," and instead they would receive "a CD with a snuff video" in the mail.
His mother, Vera Sinitsa, told Current Time that she and her family were shocked when they first got word of what her son was alleged to have done and that he is a "victim" meant to scare the Russian public and discredit the country’s opposition.
“We didn’t know anything about it. We heard about the text after we saw on television that the Investigative Committee was getting involved. We started to search for it, find out what it is, and when he wrote it. We couldn’t even find it for 20 or 30 minutes before we were able to dig up this post.”
"They needed to smear the opposition, to say, 'Look at what a bunch of thugs and filth they are,'" she added.
The court action comes after a series of protests in Moscow this summer demanding independent candidates be allowed to run in elections for Moscow’s city legislature in September, one of the biggest, sustained protest movements in the Russian capital in years.
More than 2,000 people have been briefly detained at the rallies since mid-July, some of which have been violently dispersed by police. Dozens have been fined or sentenced for taking part in unsanctioned rallies.
At least one police officer told the Presnensky district court he interpreted the tweet as a threat against his own family.
Sinitsa, who is from a town outside Moscow and works in finance, denied the tweet amounted to incitement to violence and said he would appeal against the sentence.
Investigative Committee officers searched the family's home, taking a computer, mobile phones, flash sticks, among other items, Sinitsa's mother told Current Time, the Russian-language network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA.
She said the family has struggled to find expert help and feels ostracized.
"We immediately realized that this text [tweet] pushed everyone away from us, against us. If there hadn't been this publication regarding children, I think things would have been different. We clearly understood that. We couldn’t even find experts to give their assessment of the text. Everyone refused."
Opposition politician Aleksei Navalny was among those to decry the sentence.
"There's no article in the Criminal Code about stupidity. But there is for deliberately prosecuting someone who is innocent," said Navalny in a Twitter post.