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Russia Frees Defendant In Case That Sparked Ethnic Tensions


Rasul Mirzayev attends a court hearing on the merits of his case in Moscow on July.
Rasul Mirzayev attends a court hearing on the merits of his case in Moscow on July.
MOSCOW -- A Moscow court has released the defendant in a high-profile case that sparked ethnic tensions.

On November 27, a judge found Rasul Mirzayev guilty of unintentional manslaughter for killing a young Russian man during a scuffle.

The judge sentenced him to two years of "limited freedom" and ordered him released from custody after more than a year spent in detention.

"First of all, Mirzayev has a small child, which is definitely an extenuating circumstance, according to the law. Also, he turned himself in, and the prosecutor used it as proof of guilt. So, I considered his surrender as an extenuating circumstance as well," Judge Andrei Fedin said at a news conference afterward.

"I also took into consideration, as extenuating circumstances, other measures [that Mirzayev took] to mitigate the harm that he had caused. Mirzayev sent 150,000 rubles [$4,840] to the mother of the victim and, although the money was rejected, I considered it as an effort to mitigate the harm."

Mirzayev is an ethnic Avar from Russia's North Caucasus and is a well known, professional martial arts fighter.

He was arrested in August 2011 for punching a man, who later died, after a fight outside a Moscow night club.

Russian nationalists have tried to turn the case into an ethnic issue.

Several Russian nationalists were detained by police when the verdict was announced, and the victim's father left the court in protest.

"[Mirzayev] should have gotten at least eight years [in prison], even though he turned himself in and he has a kid, which is [a reason for] leniency," the victim's father told journalists after the hearing.

"This was premeditated murder. Did he not know what [his actions] would result in?"

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