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Thousands march in Russia to demand prisoners' release

People march during an opposition rally in Moscow, February 2, 2014. (REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov)

MOSCOW: Thousands of demonstrators marched through Moscow on Sunday to demand Russia free eight prisoners jailed after a 2012 protest against President Vladimir Putin.

There was heavy security for the march, with hundreds of police lining the route from Pushkin Square to Turgenev Square, while a helicopter hovered overhead.

"Free the political prisoners!" read a large banner at the head of the march, which police said attracted 2,000 protesters. Organisers put the number of participants at 10,000.

The march was organised by opposition groups and held days after Russian prosecutors demanded harsh jail sentences of five to six years for the protesters.

They were arrested and accused of "mass riots" and violence against police after clashes broke out at a rally ahead of Putin's inauguration in June 2012.

However, defence lawyers have said that evidence used in the case does not back up accusations of violence against policemen, while rights groups have called the case politically motivated.

Amnesty International classified six of the eight people on trial as prisoners of conscience and urged Russia to drop all the "purported mass riots" charges against the defendants.

 

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