Translated by Ollie Richardson for Fort Russ
26th February, 2016
The Courland district court of Riga has sentenced an inhabitant of Latvia, Maksim Koptelov, to six months imprisonment for the publication of the petition on the accession of Latvia to Russia. He was convicted on charges of incitement to violate the territorial integrity of Latvia.
Lawyer Ilona Bulgakova, defending Koptelov, called the verdict a "disgrace for Latvia" and promised to appeal it.
"This punishment is extremely severe <...> This is a very bad precedent in the area of freedom of speech," Bulgakova said, noting that during the trial evidence that the defendant had indeed explicitly called for the elimination of the independence of the state was not submitted .
Maksim Koptelov published a petition in the spring of 2014. It said that at the accession of Latvia to Russia "opens vast prospects for development, much higher than what can be currently found in the European Union". The petition added a postscript, in which the petition is referred to as a joke. "If someone has a badly developed sense of humor, we are very sorry for this person," — said the postscript. By 26th February 2016 the petition had gathered 7,405 signatures.
Koptelov was detained in February 2015. During the search his computer was seized. During the trial the Prosecutor insisted on sentencing him to six months in prison. The Article about appeals for the violation of territorial integrity of Latvia provides imprisonment for the term of up to three years, forced hard labour or a fine.
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