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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Human Rights Activist Badly Beaten

MTPonomaryov with Markelov's photo
Human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov was badly beaten Tuesday night outside his Moscow home in an attack that he said was revenge for his work.

Ponomaryov, 67, leader of the For Human Rights group, was attacked by men who took his cell phone and was briefly hospitalized, his daughter Yelena Liptser said.

The beating was denounced by rights groups, with Amnesty International calling on President Dmitry Medvedev to speak out against what it called the "increasing climate of intolerance towards human rights defenders."

Ponomaryov said he was sure that the attack on him was revenge. "I am firmly convinced that this was not a casual attack by hooligans but revenge. I have no concrete opinion as to who is behind it," he said, Interfax reported.

Ponomaryov was beaten after he met with a representative of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, who attended the opening of the trial of former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky earlier in the day.

"I do not want to speculate on the reasons for this attack, but I call on the Russian authorities to shed complete light on it and to hold the attackers accountable," Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said Wednesday.

Veteran rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva of the Moscow Helsinki Group said the attack could be linked to Ponomaryov's active role in the newly established Solidarity opposition movement, RIA-Novosti reported. Solidarity is headed by Boris Nemtsov, who is running for mayor of Sochi and was doused with ammonia in an attack by three men last week.

Ponomaryov has criticized prison abuses and Russia's failure to educate young people about the gulag.

Ponomaryov also was attacked March 11 when three unidentified assailants pelted him with eggs during a news conference on prison abuses. The egg attack took place at Moscow's Independent Press Center, a frequent venue for news conferences by rights activists and Kremlin critics. Human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov was shot dead near the press center shortly after holding a news conference there in January, and a journalist was also killed in that attack. Ponomaryov, who worked closely with Markelov, accused the Federal Prisons Service of being behind the egg-throwing.

(Reuters, MT, AP)