Russia’s Supreme Court orders release of opposition activist imprisoned over peaceful protest

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2017, 6:27pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2017, 6:27pm

Russia’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that an opposition activist jailed for staging peaceful protests in an unprecedented case should have his conviction quashed and be released.

I’m very afraid they will release him now and the next day they will arrest him again
Ildar Dadin’s wife Anastasia Zotova

Ildar Dadin in 2015 became the first Russian to be sent to prison for repeated unsanctioned protests against President Vladimir Putin’s rule.

He was sentenced to three years in jail, later reduced by six months.

The 34-year-old has complained of torture and abuse behind bars, while international rights organisations have campaigned for his release.

Amnesty International has declared him a prisoner of conscience.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday responded to a request by prosecutors to free Dadin and ruled that his sentence should be quashed and his case closed, Interfax news agency reported.

The court ruled that he has the right to “rehabilitation,” meaning compensation from the state.

The decision came after Russia’s constitutional court this month ordered a review of his case, saying that punishment should be proportional to the danger to the public and that protesters should only be jailed after rallies that were not peaceful.

The constitutional court did not go so far as to say the law was unconstitutional, focusing on the fact that Dadin had faced criminal charges before rulings on his protests had entered force.

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The ruling is largely symbolic for Dadin, who has been in jail since February 2015, including pre-trial detention, and has only six months of his sentence left to serve.

Dadin appeared in court via video link from his penal colony in the Altai region of Siberia.

“We hope he will be freed very soon,” his lawyer Ksenia Kostromina told journalists after the ruling, Interfax reported. “Now I can go to [the Siberian city of] Barnaul to meet him,” Dadin’s wife Anastasia Zotova told the Dozhd independent channel.

She said she hoped to move abroad with Dadin, adding: “I’m very afraid they will release him now and the next day they will arrest him again.”

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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov commented briefly on the case, saying that “any court decision should be respected, all the more so one of the Supreme Court”.

Dadin’s case was controversial because the maximum punishment for someone who is detained once at an unsanctioned rally in Russia is a fine or time in police cells. In 2014 Russia introduced criminal charges for those who breach rules at protest rallies twice or more in a period of 180 days, and Dadin’s was the first such case.