Kasparov arrested outside Pussy Riot trial courthouse (UPDATED)
Garry Kasparov was arrested and reportedly beaten by police today in Moscow outside the courthouse where the Pussy Riot trial is taking place. Dutch journalist Olaf Koens' photo of Kasparov in a police van is quickly spreading on Twitter and elsewhere on the internet.
Although protesters could be found outside the courthouse, Kasparov
wasn't protesting, just trying to get in!
according to Mig Greengard, a close friend of Kasparov, on Twitter.
On Kasparov's Facebook page the following statement was posted:
Garry Kasparov has just been arrested outside the Moscow courthouse where the Pussy Riot trial is taking place. He was not there to protest, simply to attend, and the police cornered him and dragged him into the police van. This photo shows the police assaulting him inside the van. We hope he is all right and we will provide updates when we have them.
Inside the courthouse, the three members of Russian punk group Pussy Riot were found guilty of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" for staging an anti-government protest concert in a church in February this year. At the moment of writing, the sentence isn't known yet. Prosecutors demanded a three-year prison sentence for insulting the religion and Putin and shouting "blasphemous" remarks inside the church. Putin himself said he hoped the women wouldn't be treated "too severely".
In April 2007 Kasparov was also briefly arrested by the Moscow police while heading for a demonstration. He was held for some 10 hours and then fined and released. In November of the same year, Kasparov and other protesters were detained at an Other Russia rally in Moscow. He was subsequently charged with resisting arrest and organising an unauthorized protest and given a jail sentence of five days.
Kasparov is chairman of the Human Rights Foundation, which issued a "legal report" yesterday with the conclusion that
the arrest, bail denial, and criminal trial against the three women violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Kasparov was quoted:
These young women have committed no crime. Their protest performance, while it understandably offended some at the church that day, constitutes political speech that should be unconditionally protected. Having them imprisoned without bail for over five months is unacceptable. Anything but acquittal tomorrow will be a disgrace and another slap in the face of civilized standards of justice. If they are not acquitted it will be more proof that so-called Russian democracy continues to erode under Putin. Without question, Pussy Riot will eventually obtain a favorable verdict at the European Court of Human Rights.
Update 14:43 CET: Another photo of Kasparov's arrest has appeared online:
Update 14:46 CET: Mig Greengard just tweeted:
I just spoke to Kasparov at police station. Was beaten but is okay. Isn't sure what next step will be. Cops waiting for orders from above.
[Editor] Garry was talking with journalists when the police pushed in to drag him away. Not protesting. With Udaltsov at police station now.
Update 14:56 CET: 'Udaltsov' refers to political activist and Left Front coordinator Sergey Udaltsov. As Interfax reports, Uldaltsov also wanted to enter the court building and, like Kasparov, he was detained and put into a police bus.
Update 14:59 CET: In a comment below, Mig Greengard mentions that Kasparov
sounded pretty bruised on the phone, if that makes sense. Hoping for no serious injuries and for release
Update 15:17 CET: Kasparov was part of a group of a few hundred Pussy Riot supporters outside the Khamovnichesky District Court building, writes The Guardian.
There was a heavy police presence around the court building in central Moscow, where hundreds of protesters and band supporters were gathering.
The Moscow Times mention that Kasparov
bit a police officer, the head of the public chamber of the Moscow bailiffs service, Anton Tsvetkov, told Interfax. The policeman has gone to receive a medical examination, the news agency said.
Update 16:07 CET: More photos of Kasparov's arrest can be found here. For non-chess media obviously the big story is the Pussy Riot trial itself. The verdict was just announced by the judge: all three group members got two years' jail time, of which they have some 14 months left to serve.
Update 16:37 CET: From the police station, Kasparov said:
This is the Kremlin's reply to those who talked about Russia's liberalization under Putin.
Update 16:43 CET: Kasparov denies that he bit a policeman, but this part of the story might suggest that he'll face assault charges.
Update 17:52 CET: The BBC has video footage of Kasparov's arrest. While he was being dragged to a nearby police van, he demanded to know why he was being arrested.
Update, 19:51 CET: On the Kasparov Facebook page it was announced that Kasparov has been released:
Garry has been released, but the police are seriously pursuing this ridiculous charge that he bit a police officer. So he has more protocol to go through tonight with his attorney and must return to the police next week. Thank you everyone for your support.
And then there was the following tweet:
I am out of police custody, going to emergency room to check my injuries and to prove that I am not drunk or biting anyone!
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