June 22, 2020 / 5:26 PM / 21 days ago

Russia jails anti-Kremlin prankster for 15 days for petty hooliganism

Anti-Kremlin activist Pyotr Verzilov poses for a photo before an interview with Reuters in Berlin, Germany, September 28, 2018. REUTERS/Reinhard Krause/Files

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Moscow court jailed Pyotr Verzilov, an anti-Kremlin activist and associate of the Pussy Riot punk group, for 15 days on Monday after finding him guilty of petty hooliganism for swearing in public.

Verzilov, publisher of the private Mediazona news outlet, was taken in for questioning by police on Sunday over a political rally last summer and held him for hours. He was attacked by an unknown assailant after he was released.

Both men were later detained by police and Verzilov was charged with swearing in public, Verzilov’s lawyer Leonid Solovyov was quoted by the RIA news agency as saying.

Writing after his sentencing on Monday, Verzilov accused the police on Twitter of staging the incident to provoke and jail him.

“The judge just sentenced me to 15 DAYS FOR SWEARING - but in actual fact for a police provocation that included attacking me after being questioned for 13 hours in the Investigative Committee,” Verzilov said.

TASS news agency cited a police source as saying Verzilov had planned to stage a prank on Wednesday when Russia marks the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War Two with a military parade on Red Square. Verzilov denied this in comments to the BBC’s Russian Service.

Verzilov was one of four Pussy Riot activists who ran onto the pitch wearing police uniforms during the soccer World Cup final in Moscow in 2018, a stunt they said aimed to draw attention to human rights abuses.

Reporting by Tom Balmforth; editing by Timothy Heritage

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