Lawyers for convicted neo-Bolsheviks take case to Europe

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MOSCOW, July 10 (RIA Novosti) - Lawyers for 39 activists of an extremist-minded party sentenced to prison terms for inciting public unrest in Russia said Monday they had filed an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights.

A Moscow court handed down a guilty verdict to a group of National Bolshevik Party, led by controversial writer Eduard Limonov, charged with attempting to seize power and organize a mass disturbance. Thirty-nine NBP activists were arrested December 14, 2004 after they broke into the presidential staff's visitors' room to protest President Vladimir Putin's political reforms.

"We believe that our clients' right to legal protection and a fair trial, as stated in the European Convention on Human Rights, was violated," said Dmitry Agranovsky, defense counsel for one of the NBP members.

He said the defense lawyers had been unable to exercise the legal right to question witnesses for the prosecution.

"The trial was unfair and biased. We could not meet with our clients at the remand center for as long as was necessary," he said.

The Moscow City Court rejected an appeal lodged by the NBP activists on March 29.

In December, 2005, Moscow's Tverskoi District Court gave 31 NBP activists suspended sentences, sentencing eight others to one and a half to three and a half year terms of imprisonment. Lawyers complained that the court had acted indiscriminately, without studying the role of each defendant thoroughly enough.

In June 2005, a Moscow court banned the organization on the grounds that it had violated the law on political parties by calling itself a "party" without having official registration. The Supreme Court's appeals unit overturned the ruling in August. But the Prosecutor General challenged this decision with the Supreme Court Presidium and a panel of Supreme Court justices then ordered a retrial.

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