Moscow frees actor convicted of role in anti-Putin protests

Pavel Ustinov denied he had taken part in opposition protests in Moscow last month.

    Pavel Ustinov listens to a lawyer during a court hearing in Moscow [Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters]
    Pavel Ustinov listens to a lawyer during a court hearing in Moscow [Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters]

    Pavel Ustinov, a 23-year-old actor, will be freed - at least temporarily - after his conviction over an opposition protest sparked public outcry, a Moscow court has ruled.

    Ustinov was convicted on Monday of dislocating a security officer's shoulder during his arrest at an August 3 rally in Moscow where demonstrators demanded free and fair elections.

    He denied the charges. The conviction sparked a major solidarity campaign, with hundreds of supporters - from film stars to teachers to priests - staging protests against President Vladimir Putin's administration.

    Ustinov's family thanked all those who helped win her son's release on Friday.

    "This is a victory of all of us," his mother, Tatyana Ustinov, told reporters. "I think we will win."

    Ustinov, who was sentenced to three and a half years in jail after prosecutors asked for a six-year term, said he had not taken part in the protest.

    'Good conduct'

    The court ruled on Friday that Ustinov should be freed from custody until the hearing of his appeal against the sentence next week.

    He was expected to walk free from a Moscow detention facility later on Friday, but will not be allowed to leave the Russian capital.

    The prosecution said, at the hearing on Friday, that the judge had not previously taken into consideration Ustinov's good conduct and the fact that he had several siblings, among other factors.

    Ustinov said, addressing the court by video link, that he did not plan to "flee or threaten anyone".

    Authorities are widely expected to drop efforts to secure a prison sentence for Ustinov altogether after the General Prosecutor's Office on Thursday called the current sentence too harsh and asked the court to give him a non-custodial sentence.

    The Moscow city court is scheduled to consider the appeal on next Thursday.

    After anti-government protests this summer, six people were given jail terms of between two and four years.

    But the actor's case caused particular outrage because the court refused to consider video footage that showed police in an apparently unprovoked attack on him.

    Dozens of stars with millions of followers on social media, who usually steer clear of politics, spoke out in support of Ustinov, who is a little-known novice actor.

    They were joined by teachers, doctors, publishers, IT specialists and more than 100 clerics who said the other people jailed or awaiting trial after the protests should be released.

    Tens of thousands of people rallied in Moscow this summer after authorities refused to allow opposition candidates to stand for the city parliament in September 8 elections.

    SOURCE: News agencies