MOSCOW, January 9 (Marc Bennetts, RIA Novosti) – A leftist activist charged with plotting to overthrow President Vladimir Putin was sent on Wednesday from the central Russia holding cell where he had spent the New Year holidays to Siberia, prison officials said.
Left Front activist Leonid Razvozzhayev’s lawyer told RIA Novosti he had not been informed that his client was being transferred to Irkutsk, in East Siberia.
“I only found out from media outlets that he was being transferred today,” lawyer Dmitry Arganovsky said.
Arganovsky expressed fears late last year that Razvozzhayev could face pressure – including torture – to implicate leading opposition figures in the alleged plot.
“The Siberian pre-trial detention center that Razvozzhayev is being sent to has an extremely bad reputation,” he told RIA Novosti in December.
The allegations against Razvozzhayev, Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov, and another activist, Konstantin Lebedev, are based on grainy footage aired by the pro-Kremlin NTV channel that purports to show them meeting Georgian politician Givi Targamadze to discuss plans to destabilize Russia. All three men face up to ten years behind bars if found guilty of the charges, which they deny. Lebedev has also been in custody since October, while Udaltsov has been ordered not to leave Moscow.
Razvozzhayev was taken in late December from the Moscow pre-trial detention center were he had been held since October and put on a train to Chelyabinsk, in central Russia, Arganovsky said. Wednesday was the first working day in Russia after a ten-day break for the New Year and Orthodox Christmas holidays.
Additional charges of robbing an East Siberian businessman of 500 fur hats in 1997 were brought against Razvozzhayev last month, but the statue of limitations on the charges expired early last month.
Razvozzhayev also alleged in a post on Arganovsky’s Live Journal account in late December that his transfer to Siberia was part of an attempt to force him to provide “false testimony.”
A number of opposition figures have been jailed or hit with criminal charges since Putin returned to the Kremlin in May amid violent protests.
Investigators opened a new fraud case against protest leader Alexei Navalny in December, the third case against the anti-corruption blogger in less than six months. Navalny already faces up to ten years in jail on two other fraud charges.
Putin has denied however that a crackdown on dissent is underway, saying last year that “everyone” must obey Russian law. He also vigorously denied last December that his rule had become increasingly authoritarian.