Russians defend US teacher who had sex with students

Thousands sign online petition

Russians Defend Teacher's Relationship with Boys
A former teacher from Polk County, Florida who was sentenced last week to 22 years in prison for having sex with students is getting quite a bit of support from a place you might not expect.

Jennifer Fichter, 30, was an English teacher at Central Florida Aerospace Academy in Lakeland, when she was arrested for having sex with three 17-year-old students.

Now the fight for her freedom is intensifying with a huge wave of support coming from Russian sympathisers.

Nearly a week after she was sentenced, thousands of people there are rallying behind the teacher, saying her penalty is too harsh.

Online petitions

This week, a petition - launched on popular website - quickly went viral among Russian social media users, having gathered over 40,000 signatures by Monday evening.

The petition, launched by Russian Denis Shiryaev, said: "Twenty-two years for a woman who helped three mature male students start their adult lives. Twenty-two years for a woman who wanted to be happy and loved, even if it was by someone younger than herself. Twenty-two years for the fact that these students wanted to be with her, longed for her tenderness and attention."

The petition's author demanded an end to the "United States' legal tyranny" and urged US authorities to overturn Fichter's conviction.

Another petition was launched on the US White House's citizen action website 'We the People', but by Monday evening it had gathered fewer than 2,000 of the 100,000 signatures necessary to warrant the US presidential administration's consideration.

It was not clear whether the second petition was launched by the same Russian activists.