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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

4 Women Sentenced in FSB Bombing

MTRadical communists protesting outside the Moscow City Court during the sentencing Wednesday. The sign says "Political Prisoners: Komsomol Members-Revolutionaries."
The Moscow City Court on Wednesday convicted four female members of a radical left organization of bombing the FSB public reception building in 1999, provoking raucous protests from their supporters.

Nadezhda Raks, 30, and Larisa Romanova, 29, who spent three years behind bars awaiting the verdict, were given prison sentences of nine years and 6 1/2 years, respectively. Olga Nevskaya, 24, was given a six-year sentence and was taken into custody along with her 11-month-old son.

Tatyana Nekhorosheva, 27, the only defendant who pleaded guilty in court, got a five-year suspended sentence. She and Nevskaya had been released from jail earlier on condition they not leave Moscow.

The women, all activists of the Russian Communist Labor Party, were convicted of terrorism in the bomb attack on the Federal Security Service building in central Moscow in April 1999, which shattered windows but caused no injuries. They were arrested in early 2000 in an FSB dragnet.

The 13-month trial was held behind closed doors, and participants had to pledge not to talk about the trial while it was going on.

The entrance to the court Wednesday morning was surrounded by about 30 mainly elderly protesters, some wearing badges with Josef Stalin's portrait. They held signs demanding freedom for the defendants and castigating the FSB and Judge Marina Komarova.

As the defendants' fellow party members entered the courtroom, they honored Raks and Romanova with a trademark Communist salutation, lifting their fists above their heads and shouting "Glory to heroes!" and "Freedom to young communists!"

Raks and Romanova, slim women wearing colorful T-shirts and black trousers, stood in the steel defendants' cage and welcomed their comrades.

Nekhorosheva sat outside the cage with her lawyer, Sergei Dyachek. Nevskaya was not allowed inside the courtroom because she was carrying her baby, and was walking around the court lobby when the verdict was read. Apparently expecting to be sent to prison, she had brought a big bag packed full of diapers for her son. Somebody put three red carnations on the bag.

The judge dismissed charges of producing explosives against all the women except Nevskaya, who was accused of manufacturing the bomb. Romanova was relieved of a charge of selling drugs, which prosecutors had added to the pile of terrorism charges against her.

When Judge Komarova finished reading the sentences, chaos broke out in the courtroom. "Fascists! Disgrace!" the communist contingent shouted in unison, while reporters and lawyers tried to pacify them. The judge called in guards to remove those who refused to quiet down.

When she ordered Nevskaya taken into custody, a guard went out of the room and returned with her, already handcuffed and with a crying baby in her arms, and pushed her inside the defendants' cage. This produced a fresh outburst in the courtroom, and the judge ordered the guards to send everyone out.

Some elderly communists resisted, shouting "Fascists!" and "Murderers!" and the guards pushed them out physically.

By this time, young radical communists and anarchists had joined the rally outside. About 100 protesters brandished red banners and signs in support of the jailed radical leftists and damning the Russian system of justice.

Gennady Zhuravlyov, a lawyer defending Nevskaya, and Anatoly Kryuchkov, who represents Raks, said they would appeal the conviction to the Supreme Court.

"The complicity of the women in the bombing was not proved in court by impartial evidence. The only evidence against the convicted women was the testimony of [Andrei] Stvolinsky and Nekhorosheva's confession," Zhuravlyov said.

Stvolinsky, a former television reporter who associated with radical leftists, was called in for questioning by the FSB in 1999 and told investigators that the women had planned the bombing.

Alexander Belov, a spokesman for the FSB's Moscow branch, said by telephone Wednesday that he could not immediately disclose what other evidence there was against the women.

In April, Nekhorosheva told the court that she had participated in the bombing together with Nevskaya and Raks.

Dyachek, Nekhorosheva's lawyer, calling the verdict "fair," said his client would not appeal. "Nekhorosheva was not helping investigators but only following her conscience when she confessed to the bombing," he said. When he said this, several older communists shouted in his face, "Traitor! Bastard! You defended her for money!"

Nekhorosheva, although free to go, did not leave the courtroom with the others after the verdict was read. Elderly communist women were waiting for her in the court lobby and outside. "Judas! We will spit in her face!" some of them shouted.

Valentin Gefter, head of the nongovernmental Institute of Human Rights, said the judge was lenient. "The convicted women got much smaller terms than the state prosecutor had demanded and even smaller than the law provides for in a premeditated terrorist attack," he said.

Olga Trusevich, an activist from the Memorial human rights group who served as an attorney for Nevskaya, said that even if the women did what they were accused of, it was not a terrorist attack.

"Nobody was killed in it. It was just the games of infantile marginal people, hooliganism, at the most," she said.

The judge said the time the women had spent in detention would be shaved off their sentences. They have 10 days to appeal once they receive written copies of the verdict.