Saturday, November 24, 2007

Kasparov jailed after anti-Putin protest

Kasparov jailed after anti-Putin protest

By MANSUR MIROVALEV, Associated Press

Russian authorities arrested former world chess champion Garry Kasparov on Saturday and sentenced him to five days in prison after he helped lead a protest against President Vladimir Putin that ended in clashes with police.

Kasparov, one of President Vladimir Putin's harshest critics, was charged with organizing an unsanctioned procession of at least 1,500 people against Putin, chanting anti-government slogans and resisting arrest, court documents said. His assistant said he was beaten during the demonstration.

At the hastily organized trial, two police testified that they had been ordered before the rally to arrest Kasparov.

"What you read is the fruit of a fantasy dictated on orders from above," Kasparov told the court.

The violence came amid an election campaign in which some opposition political groups have been sidelined by new election rules or have complained of being hobbled by official harassment.

The Kremlin has mounted a major campaign to orchestrate a crushing victory for Putin's United Russia party in Dec. 2 parliamentary elections — perhaps to ensure that Putin can continue to rule Russia even after he steps down as president in May. The constitution prevents him from serving three consecutive terms.

The fracas also comes at a time of growing concern in the West over the state of democracy in Russia, with western critics saying freedoms have been curtailed during Putin's eight years in office. Putin accuses the West of meddling in Russian politics.

Kasparov and dozens of other demonstrators were detained after the rally which drew several thousand people.

The opposition activist was forced to the ground and beaten, his assistant Marina Litvinovich said in a telephone interview from outside the police station where Kasparov was held.

"Putin's brakes don't work," Kasparov told a reporter in the courtroom. "I didn't hear any orders from police, unless you count the strike of a police club as an order."

Protesters were surrounded by metal fences and funneled through metal detectors while hundreds of uniformed police and interior ministry troops stood by. Men in black coats who refused to identify themselves circulated through the crowd shooting video.

After the rally ended, a line of helmeted police tried to prevent a march and channel protesters back toward a nearby Metro station.

Among the dozens of demonstrators arrested was Eduard Limonov, author and leader of the National Bolshevik Party, Kasparov's closest partner in a coalition of anti-Kremlin organizations. Supporters said he was later released.

Police in other Russian cities, including Nizhny Novgorod and Samara, detained local opposition protest organizers, according to the Interfax news agency.

Kasparov's coalition, which includes radicals, democrats and Soviet-era dissidents, has drawn wide media coverage but generated little public support.

Its ranks have expanded, though, as more mainstream political parties complain that officials have excluded them from freely contesting the upcoming elections.

On Friday, the Moscow offices of Kasparov's political organization were searched by police, who seized campaign materials, and the headquarters of the opposition Union of Right Forces party was hit by vandals, the groups said.

Police in Moscow and several other cities have used force to break up several so-called Dissenters Marches in the past year, sometimes beating protesters with truncheons.

The city gave organizers a permit for Saturday's rally but forbid them to march.

Meanwhile, an opposition party candidate from Russia's troubled Dagestan region who was shot by unidentified gunmen earlier this week died Saturday of his wounds.

Farid Babayev, a Yabloko party candidate, was shot Wednesday in the entryway to his apartment. His party's leader linked the killing to Babayev's efforts to hold authorities accountable for human rights abuses in Dagestan.

Yabloko party leader Grigory Yavlinsky called Babayev "one more victim of the authoritarian regime of Putin, where the physical destruction of your political opponents has become the norm."


Dushenko said...

I am glad they were all arrested. Putin has made a great deal of progress to let these US/western financed groups weaken and divide Russia. Putin should have a firm hand with them and thus prevent Russia from ever spiraling back to the chaos of the early 90's. What is saddening is that these so called Anti Putin protesters are playing into the hands of the Americans. It is a well known fact that they are organized, funded, and supported by elements of the US government to destabilize Russia and create another puppet regime that they can control and manipulate from Washinton while they plunder Russia's natural resources and exploit the economy.

Takou said...

Can we have some facts that confirm your statements "about these US/western financed groups that weaken and divide Russia" backed up with the links to actual documents? Also early 90's have past about 20 years ago and we live now in the new century. Putin had 8+ years to transform Russia but his only legacy will be Beslan, Dubrovka, Kursk submarine, hundreds of dead Kuzbass miners and scores of burned alive old men trapped inside the nursing homes.