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Russia’s Supreme Court sets Ildar Dadin free The political prisoner has had his sentence overturned

13:00, 22 february 2017

Ildar Dadin’s wife Anastasia Zotova immediately after the Supreme Court announced its ruling. February 22, 2017

Photo: Anatoliy Zhdanov / Kommersant

On February 22, Russia’s Supreme Court overturned the conviction of oppositionist Ildar Dadin, ordered his release from prison, and recognized his right to rehabilitation. This decision was made after the country’s Constitutional Court found that his sentence was illegal. The Prosecutor General’s office, having decided that Dadin’s actions did not constitute a crime, also petitioned for his release. Meduza explains how and why the first person to be imprisoned in Russia for staging repeated unauthorized protests has been released.

In December 2015, opposition activist Ildar Dadin was sentenced to three years prison. He was the first person in Russia to be convicted under Article 212.1 of the Criminal Code on repeatedly violating the rules of organizing street events, in Dadin’s case – protests. In March 2016, the sentence was reduced from three years to two and a half.

On November 1, 2016, Meduza published a letter in which Dadin spoke about enduring torture at the hands of prison employees at Karelian penal colony number 7. Two days later, Dadin was visited by Russia’s Human Right Commissioner Tatiana Moskalkova, who offered to transfer him to another colony. The European Court of Human Rights accepted Dadin’s case, giving it priority as a case on torture. The European Parliament demanded that Dadin be released. Dadin then wrote another letter in which he said that after even after Moskalkova’s intervention and the arrival of members of Russia’s Presidential Human Rights Council, the beating and torture of prisoners at penal colony number 7 did not cease.

Russia’s Federal Penetentiary Service and the Karelian branch of Russia’s Investigative Committee did not find any evidence of torture in the prison and called Dadin “a very talented imitator.” Dadin himself behaved inconsistently. In particular, he refused to be viewed by an independent medical examinater and to undergo a lie-detector test. He insisted that his lawyer must be present for all of these procedures. However, on December 5, for reasons of “personal security”, the prisoner was transferred to another location. His whereabouts were not known for more than a month. On January 8, his family finally learned that he had been transferred to penal colony number 5 in the Altai.

Ildar Dadin was not present at the Supreme Court hearing. He learned of his release via video. February 22, 2017
Photo: Anatoliy Zhdanov / Kommersant

On February 10, 2017, Russia’s Constitutional Court ruled that Dadin’s sentence should be reviewed by the country’s Supreme Court. The former decided that Dadin’s sentence for repeatedly holding one-man protests in violation of protest rules should be reconsidered due to the fact that, at the time of Dadin’s criminal proceedings, the law on his violation had not yet come into force.

On February 22, the Supreme Court overturned Dadin’s verdict. His release was petitioned for not only by his defense team, but also by Russia’s Prosecutor General’s, which requested that the case be closed and the prisoner released, as Dadin’s actions did not constitute a crime. Dadin’s lawyer Alexei Liptser told Meduza that, according a Supreme Court employee, a certified copy of the decision will be sent to the colony. “They will most likely have it tomorrow, and tomorrow or the next day he would be released,” Liptser said.

The lawyer admitted that the court’s decision surprised him: “We thought that the sentence would be overruled, but that the case would be sent for a retrail.” Dadin’s release was also a surprise for his wife Anastasia Zotova. “I was preparing myself to such an outcome, but apparently not very well, because I have not yet purchased tickets to Barnaul. I will, of course, fly there. I will be waiting when Ildar is released,” said Zotova in an interview with Meduza.

Dadin’s is certain that the authorities’ attitudes toward Dadin has changed dramatically. “Perhaps this was international pressure. Perhaps, it was a diplomatic game, but they came from a [mind-set of] “Dadin should be in prison” to “Dadin should be released.”

“We are seeing the release of political prisoners about whom a lot is known, as was the case with [Ukrainian pilot] Nadezhda Savchenko, [artist] Peter Pavlensky, and now with Ildar Dadin,” Zotova said. “I hope that freedom will come for others, as well, as there are over 100 such people in Russia.”