Russia frees jailed representative after public protest over campaign

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A Moscow court on Friday ordered the release of Pavel Ustinov, an actor whose conviction for injuring a police officer at an opposition protest, sparked a public outcry in Russia.

Ustinov, 23, was convicted on Monday for dislocating a police officer’s shoulder during his arrest at an Aug. 3 rally in Moscow, a charge he denied.

Jailed for three and a half years, Ustinov said he had not taken part in the protest, one of several held to demand free elections in the Russian capital.

The court ruled on Friday that Ustinov should be freed from custody until an appeal against his sentence, due next week, is heard.

Ustinov is one of a handful of people jailed for around three to four years over a series of political protests that flared this summer after opposition candidates were barred from taking part in a local election in Moscow.

The rallies were the largest sustained protest movement in the Russian capital in years.

Kremlin critics accused courts of handing down harsh sentences to protesters to try to scare off would-be sympathisers. The authorities deny that.

In an unusual public display of solidarity this week, hundreds of Russians, including celebrities, teachers, priests and IT workers took to social networks and wrote open letters calling for Ustinov’s release.

Many of them condemned the jailing of other protesters too, calling them a flagrant miscarriage of justice.

Ustinov was expected to walk free from a Moscow detention facility later on Friday.

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