Russia's supreme court has overturned the conviction of peaceful dissident Ildar Dadin. The court ordered the 34-year-old immediately released from custody.
In 2015, Dadin was the first person to be convicted under strict new laws regulating anti-government demonstrations. Under the statute, violating protest rules more than twice in a 180-day period became a felony.
An outspoken supporter of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, Dadin regularly protested against President Vladimir Putin's infamous "gay propaganda" law and Russian military action. He was sentenced to three years in prison, though the term was later reduced to 30 months on appeal.
Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland welcomed the court decision, saying the "freedom of assembly is fundamental to democracy."
"The Supreme Court ruling is based on an earlier judgment from the Russian constitutional court, which rightly said that repeated violations of rules on public gatherings should be seen as a criminal offense," Jagland said.
Dadin alleges regular beatings by guards
Last November, Dadin said that he was being tortured by prison guards. He said that they had beaten him and threatened to rape and murder him. A subsequent investigation found that the situation was serious enough for the activist to be moved to a different prison.
The outcry reached such a fever pitch that Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the case merited "the closest attention" from the government, and that President Putin would be informed.
On February 10, the Constitutional Court decided to order a review of Dadin's case. On Tuesday, while dismissing the charges against him, the judges also said that the protest regulations needed to be applied more proportionately.
es/se (AP, Reuters, dpa)