Russia court questions jailing of peaceful activist Ildar Dadin

Ildar Dadin being escorted by official (file pic by Alexander Baroshin) Image copyright Alexander Baroshin
Image caption Mr Dadin became a symbol of Russia's growing intolerance for protest

The jail term given to a peaceful opposition activist should be reviewed, says Russia's constitutional court.

Ildar Dadin is serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence under a law making repeat violation of Russia's strict protest rules a criminal offence.

The court upheld the law itself, but ruled that it could not be applied in cases where protests did not constitute a threat.

Last November, Mr Dadin said he had been tortured in prison.

Now, his lawyer says he expects the case against the activist to be overturned when it is reviewed by the Supreme Court.

Mr Dadin's wife, Anastasia Zotova, was in court and told the BBC the court's decision was "a bit better" than she had expected.

"It's very good that the court decided the case must be reviewed and probably overturned," she said.

"It seems Ildar won't have to stay in prison for [the remaining 172 days of his sentence], that he will be out before then.

"We are all very happy about that and we are waiting for him.

"However, it is bad that the court did not overturn Article 212.1, which means that those people who keep staging pickets can still be prosecuted under that law."

What is Article 212.1?

  • Article 212.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation penalises those found guilty of violating Russia's protest rules at least three times within 180 days
  • The current punishment ranges from a fine of 600,000 roubles (£8,200; $10,200) to one million roubles, "corrective labour" or up to five years in prison
  • Mr Dadin is the only person to have been prosecuted under the law since it was introduced

Protesting in Putin's Russia

Ildar Dadin has become a symbol of Russia's growing intolerance of dissent.

The laws regulating protests were tightened after a wave of mass street rallies in Moscow in 2011 and 2012 that worried the Kremlin. Since then, the new rules have seen even lone, silent picketers detained by police and fined.

In 2014 the authorities went further. Article 212.1 made repeat violations of the strict new laws a criminal offence, punishable by up to five years behind bars.

But the constitutional court now says that repeat offenders should not get a prison sentence if there is no threat to the public or to public property.

That qualification will be added to the law, but the controversial article itself - Article 212.1 - will remain.

This ruling could lead to Mr Dadin's early release.

He was transferred to the far east of Russia late last year, after he complained to his wife that he had been beaten and threatened repeatedly by prison guards.

Mr Dadin will find out about the ruling on Monday, when his lawyer is allowed to visit him.

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