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European Court Rules Russia Denied Justice To Bolotnaya Activists

Demonstrators picket the Moscow City Court to support Bolotnaya Square case detainees in July 2013.
Demonstrators picket the Moscow City Court to support Bolotnaya Square case detainees in July 2013.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg has ruled that Russian authorities violated the rights of three opposition activists to trial "within a reasonable time" ahead of their 2014 convictions for participating in pro-democracy demonstrations two years earlier.

The court on September 17 ordered Russia to pay compensation to Leonid Kovyazin, Artyom Savyolov, and Ilya Gushchin over the infringement of safeguards under the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Moscow is a signatory.

All three activists participated in a May 2012 rally on Moscow's Bolotnaya Square against Russian President Vladimir Putin that turned violent as police clashed with protesters.

The ECHR ruled that Russia violated all three men's right to trial within a "reasonable amount of time" and Savyolov's right to challenge the lawfulness of his detention in a timely manner, awarding 3,000 euros ($3,396) in compensation to Savyolov and 2,000 euros each to Kovyazin and Gushchin, according to a summary of the judgment published on the court's official website.

Kovyazin was arrested in September 2012 and charged with violent acts against police officers but was released in December 2013, following an amnesty.

Savyolov and Gushchin were arrested in June 2012 and February 2013, respectively, on the same charges and sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail.

Savyolov was released in December having served his full sentence.

On May 6, 2012, Russian opposition groups staged a "March Of Millions" that ended in clashes on and around Bolotnaya Square that left scores of protesters and police injured.

The violence took place on the eve of Putin's inauguration for a third term as president and with government critics still stinging from national elections in late 2011 that they called fraudulent.

More than 400 people were detained and several dozen people prosecuted in connection with the Bolotnaya protest.

Eighteen of the 33 Bolotnaya activists brought to trial were sentenced, with 10 still serving prison terms and six more already released. Two more individuals received suspended sentences.

Thirteen activists arrested in so-called Bolotnaya cases have been amnestied. None to have faced trial has been acquitted.

The ECHR is expected to look into further complaints filed by other Bolotnaya protesters -- including Left Front movement coordinator Sergei Udaltsov, Leonid Razvozzhayev, Vladimir Akimenkov, Yaroslav Belousov, Denis Lutskevich, Stepan Zimin, and Aleksei Polikhovich.

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