MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian military court convicted seven members of a left-wing youth group of terrorism charges Monday and sentenced them to prison terms of up to 18 years in a case that human rights groups called fabricated.
A three-judge panel of the court in Penza in western Russia found the members of the group Set (Network) guilty of taking part in a terrorist organization and the illegal trafficking of weapons. Defense lawyers said they would appeal the verdict.
Some of the defendants initially pleaded guilty to some charges but later said they had given false confessions under torture.
Russian authorities accused the group members of preparing to carry out terrorism attacks during Russia’s March 2018 presidential election and when Russia hosted the World Cup soccer championship later that year.
Investigators alleged the activists illegallybought weapons and explosives and conduced training drills as part of a plot to overthrow the government.
Human rights activists and Russian opposition members have accused the Federal Security Service (FSB), the main KGB successor agency, of fabricating the case.
Alexei Navalny, Russia’s leading opposition figure, denounced the court’s verdict as “horrible” and said “the testimony about a fictitious terrorist organization has been extracted under torture.”
Asked Monday about the case, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered a review to determine if the investigation that led to the criminal charges was done in compliance with the law. Peskov wouldn’t comment on the court’s verdict.