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Russian Court Orders Parole For Ex-Student Convicted Of Seeking To Join IS


Aleksandra Ivanova attends a court hearing in 2016.

A Russian court has ordered the release on parole of Aleksandra Ivanova, a former university student who was convicted of trying to join the extremist group Islamic State (IS).

The city court in Vologda, northeast of Moscow, issued the ruling on April 16, lawyer Sergei Badamshin told Ekho Moskvy radio. He said Ivanova should be freed in 10 days if prosecutors do not appeal the decision.

Ivanova was detained in Turkey in June 2015 while allegedly trying to cross into Syria, where IS fighters had seized swaths of territory the previous year and were seeking to create a caliphate.

The former Moscow State University student, who changed her name from Varvara Karaulova while in custody, was convicted and sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison in December 2016. She was 20 years old at the time.

Ivanova's lawyers contend that she never planned to join IS and was manipulated by an IS recruiter.

The court ruling followed a plea by Russia's human rights commissioner, Tatyana Moskalkova, for Ivanova's release on parole. Prison authorities opposed it.

A substantial number of Russians from Muslim ethnic minorities are believed to have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside militant groups including IS.

Ivanova's case attracted attention in part because she was a student at a prestigious university and come from a non-Muslim family.

Islamic State is banned in Russia, where it is designated as a terrorist organization.

Russia has backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government throughout the eight-year-old war in Syria and stepped up its involvement in 2015, starting a campaign of air strikes against his opponents, including IS.

With reporting by Ekho Moskvy, TASS, and RTvI
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