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Facing Assault Charges, Moscow Protester Says He Had 'No Choice' But To Flee

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Computer programmer Aidar Gubaidulin attends a court hearing in Moscow on September 18.

MOSCOW -- A Moscow protester who was charged with threatening to assault a police officer during an unsanctioned rally in July has left Russia.

Aidar Gubaidullin, a 25-year-old computer programmer, said in an October 17 Facebook post that leaving the country was "a difficult decision," but one he had to take.

His lawyer, Maksim Pashkov, confirmed on Telegram that his client had fled the country, but he couldn't say to where.

"I have left the country and will not come back in the coming years. I love you all, I love Moscow and Russia and anyone who knows me will say that I have always been a patriot. I would like to thank you all very much for what you did for me. Russia certainly will be free and for that I will do everything I can," Gubaidullin wrote.

Gubaidullin was arrested on August 9 and initially charged with taking part in mass disorder, which, according Russia's Investigative Committee, took place on July 27 during an unsanctioned rally to protest the refusal by election officials to register independent and opposition candidates for September 8 elections to the Moscow city council.

This charge was later changed to attempted assault of a law enforcement officer with a plastic bottle, and then on October 15, it was amended again, this time to threatening to assault a law enforcement officer.

He was released by a court on September 18 amid a public outcry over the charges, but he was ordered not to leave Moscow pending trial.

The Moscow-based human rights center Memorial has recognized Gubaidullin and several others arrested in the case as political prisoners.

Several sanctioned and unsanctioned rallies took place in Moscow over the summer in protest of a decision by the authorities to deny independent and opposition candidates from running in the municipal elections.

Dozens of protesters have been fined or given jail sentences for organizing and participating in the unsanctioned rallies.

Law enforcement has been criticized for its heavy-handed tactics during the rallies, and the judiciary has since taken a similar hard-line approach.

Several others were charged with assaulting police and handed stiff sentences. In one case, after a sharp public outcry over the court's approach, one of those convicted had his prison term changed to a suspended sentence.

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