Activist Flees Russia After Serving Sentence In High-Profile 'Network' Case.

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- A Russian activist has fled Russia after serving 3 1/2 years in prison in the high-profile Set (Network) case that rights defenders and opposition activists have called "fabricated."

Igor Shishkin told the independent news website Mediazona on August 9 that he was in an unspecified EU country.

Shishkin, from the northern Russian city of St. Petersburg, told Mediazona that he had been tortured after his arrest in 2018 and that he had admitted guilt to avoid further pain and humiliation.

Although Shishkin had not previously spoken of such treatment, medical examinations after his arrest indicated that while in custody he had suffered beatings and a fracture to an eye socket.

Russian investigators said the Network group planned to organize a series of explosions in Russia during the presidential election and the World Cup soccer tournament in 2018 "to destabilize the situation" in the country and to organize an armed mutiny.

Rights activists have said the charges are false, while some of those arrested have claimed they were tortured while in custody, which the Investigative Committee denies.

In June 2020, a court in St. Petersburg sentenced two people in the case, Viktor Filinkov and Yury Boyarshinov, to seven and 5 1/2 years in prison.

In February 2020, a court in another Russian city, Penza, sentenced seven other activists of the group to prison terms of between six years and 18 years after convicting them of terrorism.

The group members were arrested in 2017-18 for allegedly creating a terrorist group with cells in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Penza, and Omsk, as well as in neighboring Belarus.

Belarusian authorities told RFE/RL in February that they weren't aware of a Network cell in Belarus.

Amnesty International has called the terror charges "a figment of the Russian security services' imagination...fabricated in an attempt to silence these activists."

The London-based human rights watchdog maintains the case is “the latest politically-motivated abuse of the justice system to target young people.”

Shishkin and another suspect in the case, Yegor Zorin, made deals with investigators and testified against the others.

The case against Zorin was closed in September 2018.

Radio Free Europe

RFE/RL journalists report the news in 22 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established, including Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Russia.

https://www.rferl.org/

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