Activist Placed Under Investigation for Blog

Kemerovo prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into the activities of an opposition activist, following allegations that he made offensive comments about law enforcement officers in a blog.

The blogger, Dmitry Solovyov, coordinator of the Kemerovo region branch of the Oborona movement, faces up to two years in prison if charged and convicted.

Oborona's Moscow coordinator, Oleg Kozlovsky, said the case was an attempt to intimidate members of the movement, which has regularly participated in rallies staged by The Other Russia opposition coalition. "This is an attempt to put pressure on Oborona, both at the local and federal levels," Kozlovsky said Friday.

Solovyov is suspected of libeling and inciting hatred against police and Federal Security Service officers in his posts on LiveJournal, Kozlovsky said.

He said the Kemerovo region branch of the Investigative Committee opened the case on Aug. 11 at the request of the FSB's local branch and that the postings in question were made from December 2006 to June of this year under the nickname "dimon77."

Irina Khakova, a spokeswoman for the regional branch of the Investigative Committee, said she had no information about the case. No one was available for comment at the regional offices of the Interior Ministry or the FSB Friday afternoon.

Kozlovsky said he had a copy of the order opening the investigation but refused to provide it for fear of compromising Solovyov. He did say the document contained links to the blog entries in question.

An entry from March, titled "The People in Gray Won't Break Oborona," accuses Interior Ministry and FSB officers of silencing opposition, delivering "unjust verdicts," "beating confessions out" of people, intimidation and committing dissenters to psychiatric asylums.

Solovyov did not author the contents of the March posting but instead quoted a piece by another blogger, citing the original.

Examined Friday, none of the posts in Solovyov's blog referencing the Interior Ministry or FSB contained insulting epithets or incitement to violence.

Kozlovsky said Solovyov would not comment for fear of harming his case.

Anton Nosik, director of SUP, the Internet provider for LiveJournal.com in Russia, said a conviction for Solovyov would endanger freedom of speech on the web.

"It would be frightful if a court didn't realize that there is no crime here," Nosik said.

Andrei Richter, head of Moscow's Media Law and Policy Institute, said the cases of Solovyov and Komi republic blogger Savva Terentyev, who was handed a one-year suspended prison sentence in July for inciting hatred against the police, represented "a dangerous trend."

"People will be afraid to voice their opinions," Richter said.