Prosecutors urge Russian protester be freed as support rises

MOSCOW (AP) – Russian prosecutors are asking to release a protester facing years in prison for assaulting police following a mounting public campaign in support of anti-government activists and even bystanders caught up in an opposition rally.

Following their own pleas to keep the man in jail, prosecutors at a hearing yesterday asked the court to release AidarGubaidulin on recognisance and review the case to clarify the charges. Gubaidulin was one of a dozen Russians facing a prison sentence for his role in the July 27 opposition protest. Public discontent has been rising against what has been perceived as the Kremlin’s vengeance against the opposition following verdicts this month sentencing four people to prison terms ranging from two to three and a half years.

In a rare sign of dissent, more than 50 Russian Orthodox priests signed a public petition late Tuesday, condemning a series of recent trials and prison sentences for the protesters.

“We would like to express our concern about the fact that the verdicts come across as an attempt to intimidate Russian citizens rather than deliver a fair ruling in the case of the defendants,” the letter said.

Dozens of Russian celebrities and entertainers have taken social media this week to show solidarity with little-known actor Pavel Ustinov who was tried and sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for assaulting police at the July 27 rally.

Footage from the scene showed several officers tackling Ustinov as he looked at his phone while standing on the sidelines of the protest. The judge refused the defence’s plea even to review the video.

People call for the release of AidarGubaidulin during a governor and municipal elections in St Petersburg, Russia. PHOTO: AP