Moscow Court Orders Release of Opposition-Backed Businessman

MOSCOW, May 31 (RIA Novosti) – Moscow’s City Court ordered the release from prison on Friday of a businessman whose freedom was among the demands of the recent opposition rallies in the Russian capital.

Alexei Kozlov was given eight years in prison in 2009 for fraud and “legalization of stolen property,” or the use of illegally obtained property in otherwise legitimate business transactions. The investigators said he stole shares in a leather production company.

His supporters, including his wife, a celebrity journalist-turned-prisoner rights campaigner Olga Romanova, claim the case was a fabrication by his business partner, ex-Russian Senator Vladimir Slutsker, who denied the allegations.

The Supreme Court ordered Kozlov’s release and a retrial in 2011, but a district court in Moscow again found him guilty last year and sentenced him to five years in prison.

However, the Supreme Court ruled last month that the legalization of stolen property charge was unfounded. The Moscow City Court complied, dropping the charge on Friday and slashing the businessman’s sentence to four years. Kozlov has already served four and a half years behind bars.

Romanova was unavailable for comment on Friday, but said on Twitter that her husband – now held in a prison colony in the Ivanovo Region in central Russia – will walk out after the completion of all the necessary paperwork, which could take an unspecified amount of time.

Kozlov intends to sue for damages for wrongful prosecution, his legal representative told RIA Novosti in the courtroom on Friday. He added the businessman would not walk out until next week, and possibly later.

Kozlov gained public attention by co-writing with Romanova in 2008-2010 the award-winning “Butyrka blog” from the Butyrka pretrial detention facility in Moscow where he was initially held.

Romanova also led a charged campaign for his release, successfully lobbying for the demand for his release and dropping of all charges against Kozlov to be included into resolutions of several large-scale anti-Kremlin rallies last year.


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