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Putin critic Garry Kasparov cleared over Pussy Riot protest

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Aug. 25, 2012, 9 a.m. | Russia and former Soviet Union — by Reuters

Former world chess champion turned Kremlin critic Garry Kasparov was among dozens of activists picked out of a crowd and detained outside the court where the Pussy Riot trial ended in two-year jail sentences for three female band members on Aug. 17.
© AP

Moscow - Former world chess champion turned Kremlin critic Garry Kasparov was cleared on Friday of taking part in an unsanctioned protest over the conviction of punk band Pussy Riot in a rare Moscow court ruling in his favour.

Kasparov, an opposition leader, was among dozens of activists picked out of a crowd and detained outside the court where the Pussy Riot trial ended in two-year jail sentences for three female band members on Aug. 17.

The 49-year-old was speaking to journalists when police grabbed him and carried him to a waiting van. Four witnesses confirmed that is what happened during the court hearings, the Interfax news agency reported.

A court on Friday said police witnesses had not proven that he had taken part in an unsanctioned protest and acquitted him.

"I think it's a very important day, a historical day, because for the first time in our courts, the evidence of a policeman was not accepted just because he wears a uniform," Kasparov said after the decision.

Opposition leaders and activists have frequently been found guilty of charges linked to protests against President Vladimir Putin, who has been in power since 2000 and began a six-year presidential term in May.

A law rushed through parliament amid a series of street protests drastically increased fines for violations of rules governing public gatherings, part of what Putin's opponents say is a concerted effort to suppress dissent.

Kasparov could still face criminal charges based on a police officer's accusation that the opposition leader bit him while he was being detained. Police have sent documents about that accusation to federal investigators for review, Interfax said. (Reporting By Nastassia Astrasheuskaya; Editing by Steve Gutterman and Andrew Osborn)

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