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Russia jails ex-cop for 5 years

#Russia #jails #excop #years

A Russian court on Tuesday sentenced a police labor rights activist to five years in prison for extortion and distribution of pornography.

Former police officer Vladimir Vorontsov, arrested in May 2020, has been in detention for almost three years.

Vorontsov, who left the Moscow police force in 2017 after 13 years, has denied any wrongdoing.

Moscow’s Lyublinsky District Court on Tuesday found him guilty of racketeering, distributing pornography and insulting a representative of the authorities, said OVD-Info, a human rights monitor that tracks political persecution.

He was also stripped of the rank of police major and banned from managing blogs for ten years.

Supporters say the real reason behind Vorontsov’s punishment was his Police Ombudsman project, a series of social media accounts dedicated to protecting the rights of police officers and exposing abuses by their superiors.

He founded his project in 2017 while still in the police force, driven by a desire to highlight allegations of injustice and violations.

He later established close contacts with opposition activists, and after his arrest, the team led by the Kremlin’s chief critic, Alexei Navalny, urged police officers to keep up the pressure.

Vorontsov’s case sparked a rare public outcry at the time from the police, a pillar of President Vladimir Putin’s rule.

Vorontsov was arrested in a spectacular manner.

In an early-morning raid, two commando teams stormed the former police officer’s top-floor apartment in southeast Moscow, one abseiling down the high-rise while the other forced down the door.

During a five-hour search, investigators even combed through their four-year-old’s toys, socks and underwear, Vorontsov’s wife Aleksandra told AFP in 2020.

With no truly independent police unions in Russia, Vorontsov’s initiative was popular, attracting more than half a million supporters.

It has uncovered allegations of corruption within law enforcement and denounced the pressure on officers to meet quotas for fines and arrests.

It has also drawn attention to long hours and police suicides.

Vorontsov has criticized the police’s excessive use of force and supported the plaintiffs’ successful trials.

Members of the 750,000-strong Russian police force openly challenged the authorities about the treatment of Vorontsov, but also about the way the police worked and used their methods.

Dozens of serving and former police officers in Russia took to social media at the time to call for Vorontsov’s release.

Some posted photos of themselves, others posted anonymous pictures of their police hats and protest signs.

Police conditions in Russia are so harsh that dozens of police officers commit suicide every year, Kremlin critics say.

Supporters believe Vorontsov has made enemies in the upper echelons of the police force and several senior officials have lost their jobs as a result of his activism.

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