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Russian Libertarian Party Leader Sentenced For Unsanctioned Rally

Mikhail Svetov
Mikhail Svetov

A court in Moscow has sentenced Mikhail Svetov, the leader of the Libertarian Party of Russia, to 30 days in jail after finding him guilty of violating laws on holding public events.

The court said on July 31 that Svetov broke the law on July 16 when he participated in an unsanctioned rally held by opposition and independent city-council candidates who are challenging the refusal of the Moscow election commission to register them for the September 8 election to the Russian capital's assembly.

Moscow election officials barred some opposition candidates from the September poll for what they said was insufficient signatures on nominating petitions. The decision has sparked an outcry and several demonstrations this month, including one on July 20 in Moscow that drew an estimated crowd of 20,000 people.

The latest such rally was held near the Moscow mayor's office on July 27, where security officials launched a violent crackdown on participants, using what human-rights groups and Western government have called "disproportionate force" to break up the demonstration. Police said 1,074 arrests were made, while the independent OVD-Info organization reported 1,373 detentions.

Meanwhile, tests performed on unspecified biomaterial taken from opposition politician and Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny, who is serving a 30-day jail sentence for calling the July 27 protest, have excluded poisoning as a reason for his recent hospitalization, according to a laboratory chief.

Navalny was taken to hospital late on July 28 with severe swelling of the face and a rash, sparking fears he had been the victim of a poisoning attempt. He was transferred back to jail a day later.

Aleksei Tokarev, chief physician of the Moscow Sklifosovsky Medical Center, said on July 31 that samples had been delivered to the center’s lab on July 29 and the results state "no substances that could cause poisoning have been found."

However, Navalny's personal doctor, Anastasia Vasilyeva, said she has taken Navalny's hair and clothing samples for independent testing, as well as calling for the release of any video footage from cameras in the jail where the 43-year-old was being held.

Navalny has said he shares Vasilyeva's suspicions that he may have been poisoned in prison.

Svetov has characterized his sentence as "retaliation" by Moscow officials for his refusal to accept their conditions regarding the site of a new rally on August 3 against the exclusion of the candidates from the ballot.

Svetov, his party, and other activists and politicians want to hold the rally on the Lubyanka Square in front of the headquarters of the Federal Security Service.

On July 30, Russia opened a criminal investigation into the July 27 protest. The potential charges include organizing or participating in "mass unrest," which could carry a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

After the launching of the investigation, police on July 31 began visiting people who took part in the protest, asking that they sign a document which threatens criminal prosecution if they ever again participate in a demonstration, according to Pavel Chikov of the rights group Agora.

With reporting by Dozhd and Mediazona

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