Anti-Kremlin activist Pyotr Verzilov poses for a photo before an interview with Reuters in Berlin, Germany, Sept. 28, 2018.

Anti-Kremlin activist Pyotr Verzilov poses for a photo before an interview with Reuters in Berlin, Sept. 28, 2018.

Credit:

Reinhard Krause/Reuters 

A Moscow court jailed Pyotr Verzilov, an anti-Kremlin activist and associate of the Pussy Riot punk group, for 15 days on Monday after finding him guilty of petty hooliganism for swearing in public.

Verzilov, the publisher of the private MediaZona news outlet, was taken in for questioning by police on Sunday over a political rally last summer and held him for hours. He was attacked by an unknown male assailant after he was released.

Both men were later detained by police and Verzilov was charged with swearing in public, Verzilov's lawyer Leonid Solovyov was quoted by the RIA news agency as saying.

Writing on Twitter after his sentencing on Monday, Verzilov accused the police of staging the incident to provoke and jail him.

"The judge just sentenced me to 15 DAYS FOR SWEARING — but in actual fact, for a police provocation that included attacking me after being questioned for 13 hours in the Investigative Committee," Verzilov wrote in his Tweet.

TASS news agency cited a police source as saying Verzilov had planned to stage a prank on Wednesday when Russia marks the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II with a military parade on Red Square. Verzilov denied this in comments to the BBC's Russian Service.

Verzilov was one of four Pussy Riot activists who ran onto the pitch wearing police uniforms during the soccer World Cup final in Moscow in 2018, a stunt they said aimed to draw attention to human rights abuses.

Kirill Koroteev, a lawyer and the head of the International Practice of Agora, the group that has taken up Verzilov's case, spoke to The World's host Marco Werman about what happened. 

Marco Werman: Kirill, before we get to the court case from earlier today, what is the timeline here? Just briefly explain what happened to Mr. Verzilov after he got arrested Sunday.

Kirill Koroteev: Police burst into his apartment. They broke the door. There he was arrested and taken to a police station where he was questioned for 13 hours approximately, without access to a lawyer, but then he was released. So he was walking away from the police station and noticed a person following him. And 10 minutes after his release, that person just attacked him, pushing him on the ground. That's when the police arrived and arrested him for the fight. Now, it turned out that the person who pushed Mr. Verzilov had no injuries, and only Mr. Verzilov had injuries. So, the police charged him with cursing in public instead.

 

So, let me get the straight. After 13 hours of interrogation, Verzilov was followed from the station. He was beaten up and then rearrested?

Exactly.

So, what was the verdict today in court?

The court sentenced him to 15 days in prison and decided not to hear the policeman who charged him and not to hear the person who attacked him. The court believed the police-written report saying that Verzilov cursed in public and the court did not believe Verzilov who said he didn't.

Why do you think this is happening right now to Pyotr Verzilov?

What is happening is quite usual for the activists but the timing of his precise arrest is not very clear. It was rumored that he was going to stage some sort of interruption at the military parade on June 24, or at the voting on the constitution on July 1. But today in court, Pyotr Verzilov denied that and said he had no such intention.

 

What does this arrest and this whole ordeal tell you about the mindset of state authorities in Russia?

Well, during last year's Moscow protests and even previously, any major leaders would get arrested beforehand so that they spend the day of the protest in prison. It is quite a regular modus operandi for the Russian authorities. They just cannot operate otherwise than by breaching individual rights.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity. Reuters contributed to this report. 

Related Content