Five-day jail for Kasparov after Moscow protest
Moscow | November 25, 2007 12:05:05 PM IST
Just a week before Russia elects a new lower house, or Duma, opposition politician and former chess world champion Garry Kasparov was sentenced to five days in jail after being arrested with dozens of others during a rally in Moscow.
Kasparov was sentenced for violating laws regulating public assembly, The Interfax news agency reported Saturday.
After the protest against President Vladimir Putin and his government in Moscow, which was attended by some 3,000 members of the opposition alliance Another Russia, scuffles broke out with police, Echo Moskvy radio reported.
Many people were taken away in buses. Kasparov told the radio station that the police used force.
Human rights activist Lev Ponomarev, who was also arrested, accused the authorities of a "completely exaggerated reaction".
Police said that the demonstrators had presented a "directed provocation".
The authorities gave permission for the rally, but banned a protest march to the Central Election Commission one week ahead of Dec 2 elections for the State Duma for "security reasons".
Some protestors tried to break through the police cordon to hand in a petition for fair elections to the commission.
More than 1,000 OMON security forces and soldiers blocked the demonstrators' way, Russian media reports said.
Leader of the liberal Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) Boris Nemzov accused Putin of being a "coward", who was scared of peaceful people. Nemzov was a surprise participant at the rally.
Nemzov called on the Russian people to vote for the opposition on Dec 2.
Human rights activist Ponomarev said that the combined appearance of the various opposition groups was a sign of progress.
Police in other Russian cities also arrested dozens of people wanting to take part in rallies.
Numerous arrests were reported at a rally in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, while reports said a rally in Samara was called off after police detained organisers.
Thousands of people demonstrated their support for Putin, the leading candidate for the ruling United Russia party, in counterdemonstrations in Moscow.
Putin's participation in the polls has led human rights activists to describe the election as a sham, the result of which is a foregone conclusion.
The opposition alliance plans to hold a rally against Putin in St Petersburg Sunday.
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