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Russian Activists Demand Release Of Dadin, Others Seen As Political Prisoners

Activists protest in support of Russian civil activist Ildar Dadin in St. Petersburg on November 3.

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- Russian human rights campaigners draped a huge banner from a St. Petersburg bridge calling for the release of jailed activist Ildar Dadin, who says he has been tortured in prison.

Eight activists from the rights group Vesna (Spring) hung the banner reading "Dadin's Freedom Is Russia's Freedom" from Tsarskoselsky Bridge on December 7. They stood on the bridge and held lit torches.

Dadin, 34, became the first Russian citizen jailed for participating in more than two unsanctioned public gatherings in 180 consecutive days under a controversial 2014 law that critics say is part of a redoubled Kremlin effort to stifle dissent during President Vladimir Putin's third term.

Dadin received a three-year sentence in December 2015, and it was later reduced by six months.

Dadin made the torture accusations in an open letter in November that has shone a spotlight on claims of widespread abuse in Russia's prisons and jails.

Russian prison officials have said they found no evidence to support Dadin's allegations.

Also on December 7, another group of activists held a series of single-person protests in St. Petersburg demanding the release of several people they say have been jailed on politically motivated charges.