Russian Blogger Convicted Of Inciting Hatred

    July 7, 2008

A Russian blogger who referred to local police as "scum" in a post received a suspended jail sentence on Monday for extremism, leading other bloggers to express concern over online free speech.

Savva Terentiev, a 28-year-old musician from Syktyvkar, 940 miles north of Moscow, wrote a post that suggested the police should be dealt with by burning officers two times a day in a town square.

He was convicted for "inciting hatred or enmity," and given a one-year suspended sentence. Free speech advocates fear the ruling could set a bad precedent for free speech online.

"This was an absolutely unjustified verdict," Alexander Verkhovsky, director of the SOVA centre in Moscow, a non-governmental group that monitors extremism, told Reuters. "Savva for sure wrote a rude comment … but this verdict means it will be impossible to make rude comments about anybody."

The blog post that led to his prosecution has been taken down. A Russian newspaper quoted him as writing in the post,"Those who become cops are scum," and said police officers should be put on a bonfire.

During his prosecution Terentiev wrote an open letter to Russian President Dimitry Medvedev proclaiming his innocence.

"It is our duty to take responsibility for words on the Internet but … I did not call for the inflaming of social hatred towards the employees of the police department," he wrote in the letter posted on his blog.