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Russia orders release of top opposition activist

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This file photo taken on April 6, 2014 at Manezhnaya Square shows Ildar Dadin participating in a rally in support of detained anti-government activists. (AFP photo)

Russia has ordered the release of Ildar Dadin, the only opposition activist convicted under a controversial 2014 law against public protests.

Dadin was released from a prison in the remote Altai region in southern Siberia on Sunday, five days after Russia’s Supreme Court cited procedural violations and quashed his two-and-a-half-year sentence.

The 34-year-old human rights activist, who had been convicted in December 2015 for breaching Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code, which regulates public demonstrations, was viewed as a symbol of anti-government activism in Russia. Rights group in the West had described him as a political prisoner, condemning his conviction.

Dadin said last year that he was subject to torture in the prison, adding that guards carried out group beatings against him and threatened to kill him. Russian officials rejected the claims but transferred Dadin to a new facility after the allegations emerged.

The activist vowed after his release that he would continue his struggle for human rights to be observed in Russia.

“I don’t understand how you can be a human one day and not the next,” Dadin said.

Russia’s constitutional court had also rebuked Dadin’s jail sentence as a harsh punishment against peaceful protests. The original sentence for the activist was three years but a court later reduced it and Dadin had some six months left to run.

Russia has faced criticism since it adopted the Article 212.1 more than two years ago. Many have viewed the measure as an attempt to prevent a repetition of anti-government demonstrations in 2011-2012. The critics have said that the law was also influenced by protests that erupted in neighboring Ukraine in 2014 after a Russia-backed president was deposed from power. 

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