Russian police detain protesters outside trial over anti-Putin rally

Police detain protesters outside a courthouse in Moscow February 21, 2014. Police detained about 200 people on Friday outside a Moscow courthouse where eight people were convicted of rioting and assaulting police at a protest against President Vladimir Putin in 2012, a police spokesman said.

MOSCOW - Russian police detained several protesters chanting "Freedom" on Monday outside a Moscow courthouse where a judge was expected to sentence eight defendants convicted of attacking police at an anti-government demonstration in 2012.

Hundreds of people came to support the defendants in the"Bolotnaya" case, who Kremlin critics see as victims of a clampdown on dissent in President Vladimir Putin's third term.

The judge on Friday found the defendants guilty of rioting and attacking police at a protest on May 6, 2012, the day before Putin, in power since 2000, returned to the presidency after a stint as prime minister.

As the judge continued reading the verdict on Monday, police outside waded into the crowd, blocked from getting near the court by metal barriers, and detained at least 15 people.

Prosecutors have asked for sentences of five to six years for the defendants, seven men and a woman, most of them in their 20s. Putin denies using the courts as a political tool but has said people who attack police must be punished.

Defendants and relatives have expressed fears the recent violence in Ukraine, which the Kremlin blames on government opponents and in which several police were killed, will prompt Russian authorities to send a firm signal by imposing lengthy sentences.