Judge Releases St. Pete Yabloko Leader

ReutersPeople attending a protest Sunday in St. Petersburg against the prosecution of local Yabloko leader Maxim Reznik.
A St. Petersburg court on Friday ordered the release of local Yabloko leader Maxim Reznik, whose jailing on charges of hitting a police officer prompted protests and allegations that the case was politically motivated.

Still, around 150 people came out in St. Petersburg on Sunday to protest the criminal charges against Reznik, which remained in effect. The case could end up in court as early as May.

The St. Petersburg City Court threw out a district court ruling earlier this month that ordered Reznik, 33, jailed for two months pending trial. At the start of the hearing, court security guards pushed human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, a co-founder of Yabloko who has since left the party, out of the courtroom. He was later allowed back in after complaining to the judge.

Reznik was arrested on the eve of protests over the March 2 presidential election. He had been a local organizer of the protests and was active in investigating voter fraud. He was also the chief organizer of an opposition conference being planned next month in St. Petersburg.

After his release Friday, he vowed to remain politically active. "I will continue to do what I think is necessary," Reznik told Ekho Moskvy radio. "I don't think this concerns only me, so I will consult with my party colleagues."

Reznik's release came amid pressure from Lukin and after Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky met with President Vladimir Putin earlier this month.

His lawyer, Boris Gruzd, said public support had helped secure Reznik's release. "I view this decision as a small tactical victory which came about, in large part, because such an unusually harsh ... [detention] outraged public opinion," Gruzd said.

Opposition leader Garry Kasparov echoed the comments Sunday. "[Reznik's release] is only half a victory," he said. "Those who fabricated these absurd charges against Reznik should also be punished."