Russia on Tuesday sentenced a radical anti-Vladimir Putin activist to eight years in prison for drug possession in a case that her supporters have decried as politically motivated.
Taisiya Osipova, 28, an activist with the Other Russia opposition group, was sentenced by a court in the city of Smolensk about 400 kilometres (250 miles) west of Moscow, her lawyer Natalia Shaposhnikova told AFP.
"We are surprised by the sentence, it's a very long term," she said, adding that the defence will appeal the unexpectedly harsh decision, which observers are calling a repressive signal to the opposition.
The prosecution last week had asked for Osipova to serve only four years in a retrial, and cases in which a sentence dramatically exceeds prosecutors' requests are extremely rare in Russia.
The long-running case has been criticised both inside and outside Russia ever since Osipova was arrested in 2010 on suspicion of selling heroin after police raided her Smolensk home.
She was sentenced to 10 years in a prison colony last year despite having a small daughter and suffering from diabetes, which led to health complications while in pre-trial jail.
The US State Department chronicled the mistreatment of Osipova in its human rights report this year after she said she experienced multiple hypoglycaemia attacks in prison and complained of lack of access to health services.
In January, outgoing president Dmitry Medvedev said her sentence was too harsh for a mother of a minor and later ordered prosecutors to review her case, leading to the retrial.
Tuesday's lengthy punishment caught many by surprise.
Other Russia leader Eduard Limonov said the sentence was the harshest in the history of the movement and his now-banned National Bolshevik party, which has had many activists prosecuted.
"This is lawlessness by the hand of the law," he told AFP. "Our laws are too harsh and our regime is man-eating, that's why the sentence is so brutal."
Other Russia has staged frequent protests for Osipova's cause, arguing that drugs were planted in her house and investigators were pressuring her for information on her husband, one of the movement's leaders who was at the time of her arrest trying to register the movement as a political party.
Osipova's husband Sergei Fomchenkov told AFP the sentence was an attempt to scare the opposition following large-scale protests against Putin this winter before he was elected to a historic third term as president in March.
"The regime wants to show its power, to scare people who go against it," he said. "It's a signal to the entire opposition to sit quietly without complaining."
The long sentence signals a crackdown on anti-Putin protesters and politicians who spoke in favor of political change during the demonstrations over the winter, said political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin.
"The sentence is an attempt to send a signal that the regime is ready to 'tighten the screws'," he said, adding that planting drugs is often used as a scare tactic by the security services.
"There is an unwritten law that if you go against the authorities you are a criminal," he said.