Russian Orthodox priests speak out to back jailed protesters

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Russia Protest

An activist holds a poster with portrait of newly elected St. Petersburg's governor pro-Kremlin candidate Alexander Beglov and reading 'Not my governor' during a meeting against the violations during governor and municipal elections in St.Petersburg, Russia, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

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MOSCOW (AP) — Several dozen Russian Orthodox priests have signed a public petition, condemning a series of recent trials and prison sentences for anti-government protesters.

In an unprecedented show of support, more than 50 priests from the Russian Orthodox Church signed an open letter that was published late Tuesday, condemning recent verdicts against several protesters and even bystanders caught up in an opposition rally this summer protesting the exclusion of opposition candidates for Moscow's Sept. 8 local election.

The priests called on Russian authorities to review the cases, saying the verdicts strike them as an attempt to intimidate citizens.

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Four people were convicted this month of assaulting police and sentenced to prison terms from two to three and a half years in prison.

The flurry of criminal cases was widely seen as a Kremlin tactic to ward off more anti-government protests.

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