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Russia releases Dadin, Amnesty prisoner of conscience

Russia has released an opposition activist after a court quashed his sentence. Ildar Dadin had been declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International and complained of torture and other abuse behind bars.

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Anti-Kremlin activist Ildar Dadin released from prison

Russia on Sunday freed a convicted opposition activist who has accused authorities of torturing him in prison.

Ildar Dadin, 34, emerged from a Siberian penal colony after spending about 15 months behind bars for helping organize more than one unsanctioned rally against President Vladimir Putin's rule. 

"I will continue to fight against Putin's fascist regime," Dadin said in footage broadcast online by the independent Dozhd channel on Sunday. "I will fight so that human rights are respected in Russia."

Rights groups such as Amnesty International, which called Dadin a prisoner of conscience, had pleaded his case, arguing that he had only taken part in nonviolent protests. Last fall, he said prison guards had tortured, beaten and threatened to rape him.

A prison pioneer

In 2014, the government enacted Article 212.1 as the latest Kremlin tool for curbing dissent in the wake of the massive protests that preceded Putin's return to the presidency in 2012, as well as the 2014 demonstrations that brought down Ukraine's Russia-backed ruler. Article 212.1 increased punishment to a maximum of five years in jail for anyone caught holding unsanctioned demonstrations more than twice in six months - and Dadin became the first, and ultimately only, person prosecuted under the law.

Dadin originally received three years in prison, though the court later reduced that to two and half. On Wednesday, however, the Supreme Court overturned Dadin's December 2015 sentence and ordered him freed. He had six months to go.

The decision to release Dadin came after the Supreme Court criticized the harsh punishments against peaceful protesters - sparking hope among rights groups that authorities might no longer enforce such disproportionate sentences.

mkg/tj (AFP, AP)

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