A former Russian governor, whose arrest sparked massive protests in the far-eastern city of Khabarovsk in 2020, was jailed on Friday for 22 years for allegedly organising two murders.

A court outside Moscow sentenced Sergei Furgal for attempted murder and organising the killing of two businessmen in the country's far east nearly 20 years ago, a spokeswoman for the Moscow Regional Court told AFP.

Earlier this month, a jury found Furgal, 52, guilty of organising two murders and one attempted murder.

Furgal maintains his innocence, and his supporters say the case against him has been trumped up to remove a popular governor from power.

Elected in 2018, Furgal, a member of the nationalist Liberal-Democratic Party, embarrassed the ruling United Russia party, securing 70 percent of the vote.

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He was arrested in 2020, with his detention sparking huge protests.

Tens of thousands of people in Khabarovsk on the border with China took to the streets for weeks before the rallies eventually died down.

Smaller rallies also took place in nearby cities and towns including Komsomolsk-on-Amur and the Pacific port of Vladivostok in next-door Primorsky Krai region.

The protesters called for a "fair trial" for Furgal, and not in Moscow, where he has been held since his arrest.

The demonstrations were unprecedented for almost any Russian city outside Moscow and Saint Petersburg, and, though unauthorised, seemed peaceful and took place without police interference.

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In addition to state treason, he was also charged with inciting a person to engage in terrorism and attempted participation in a terrorist organization.

Russia's now jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny and other Kremlin critics in Moscow cheered the turnout at the time.

 

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