(JNS.org) Russia's Kremlin human rights council plans to review the case of Russian-Jewish teacher Ilya Farber, who in a Russian regional court last week was sentenced for the second time to seven years in a maximum security penal colony on bribery charges. The human rights council called the sentence "too harsh," according to the Moscow Times. Farber pleaded not guilty, and the Russian Supreme Court had overturned his first conviction.
The Russian Jewish Congress, which has been raising money to assist Farber’s family, has criticized a phrase made by the prosecutor during Farber’s first trial in 2012— “Can a person with the last name Farber truly help a village for free?”—as evidence for anti-Semitic undertones in the case.
Farber had worked as a teacher and later the director of the village cultural house in Moshenka, in the Tver region in Central Russia, where he was accused of accepting a bribe worth about $13,000 from a construction firm renovating the cultural house in return for officially marking the work as complete.
The prosecutor's remark during the first trial isn't typical, because Russian legal officials are usually "very careful with what they say," Matvey Chlenov, deputy executive for the Russian Jewish Congress, told JNS.org. "What we most dislike currently is that this prosecutor was not punished, even though the first sentence was annulled by the Russian Federal court," he said.
"Farber received a very cruel sentence, even though the alleged bribe sum was only several thousands of dollars. And still he got seven years of hard labor... We would like the sentence to be reviewed [a second time]," Chlenov added.
The National Conference on Soviet Jewry has also been closely monitoring the Farber case. "We join with our partner the Russian Jewish Congress in expressing concern at the prosecutor's statement questioning Mr. Farber's background," Mark Levin, the organization's executive director, told JNS.org.