A Russian court has sentenced seven people to up to four years in jail for a 2012 protest against Vladimir Putin, sparking riots outside the court and mass arrests.
Andrei Belousov, a 22-year-old student, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail. Investigators accused Belousov of throwing an "unidentified yellow object of spherical shape" at police during the protest. He stated it was a lemon.
Hundreds of the protesters' supporters gathered outside the court to condemn the trial and the Kremlin's crackdown on opposition. Police arrested about 70 of them, accusing them of violating public order.
Among those held were members of the punk band, Pussy Riot, who had spent nearly two years in prison as punishment for their own anti-Putin protest.
The defendants sentenced on Monday were among 28 people rounded up after the May 6, 2012, protest on the eve of Putin's inauguration for a third presidential term.
The rally turned violent after police restricted access to Bolotnaya Square, across the river from the Kremlin, where the protesters had permission to gather.
The defendants were found guilty last week, but sentencing was postponed until Monday. They had been in custody for nearly two years.
An eighth defendant, Anastasia Dukhanina, 20, who has been under house arrest since the riots, was given a suspended sentence.
Belousov's lawyer, Dmitry Agranovsky, said he believed the harsh punishment was in part a Kremlin reaction to the violent protests in neighbouring Ukraine that toppled an unpopular government last week.
During its reports on the trial, Russian state television showed footage of the 2012 Moscow protest alongside bloody images of beaten protesters and police in Ukraine, with the unspoken message that this could have been Russia.
Source: Al Jazeera And AP