Four environmental activists in southern Russia who once made a sensational report about an illegally built real estate linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin have been given lengthy jail terms for extorting money from a real estate developer.
Four employees of the Gelendzhik Human Rights Center in the Krasnodar Region received jail terms of between eight and 13 years in a maximum security prison on extortion charges, Bfm.ru news website reported on Monday. They were accused of forcing a real estate developer to pay them 2 million rubles ($61,000) by threatening to harass him with complaints over an apartment building he had built in Gelendzhik with alleged violations.
The activists repeatedly denied the accusation, saying in court that the money was a payment for a legal out-of-court settlement they had negotiated on behalf of a local resident, but denying they had ever taken the money themselves, the report said. In their turn, they complained about police torture, reporting beatings and being burned with cigarettes.
The Gelendzhik Human Rights Center was the first to report in 2009 the existence of an opulent mansion near Gelendzhik allegedly built for Putin with numerous environmental violations. The Kremlin denied involvement in the project, dubbed “Putin’s Palace” by bloggers and the media, and Putin's spokesman said that Putin, then the prime minister, had nothing to do with the mansion.
Author: Julia Alieva