MANSUR MIROVALEV: Russian authorities arrested former world chess champion Garry Kasparov on Saturday and sentenced him to five days in prison after he helped lead a protest against President Vladimir Putin that ended in clashes with police.
Kasparov, one of President Vladimir Putin's harshest critics, was charged with organizing an unsanctioned procession of at least 1,500 people against Putin, chanting anti-government slogans and resisting arrest, court documents said. His assistant said he was beaten during the demonstration.
At the hastily organized trial, two police testified that they had been ordered before the rally to arrest Kasparov.
"What you read is the fruit of a fantasy dictated on orders from above," Kasparov told the court.
The violence came amid an election campaign in which some opposition political groups have been sidelined by new election rules or have complained of being hobbled by official harassment.
The Kremlin has mounted a major campaign to orchestrate a crushing victory for Putin's United Russia party in Dec. 2 parliamentary elections - perhaps to ensure that Putin can continue to rule Russia even after he steps down as president in May. The constitution prevents him from serving three consecutive terms.
The fracas also comes at a time of growing concern in the West over the state of democracy in Russia, with western critics saying freedoms have been curtailed during Putin's eight years in office. Putin accuses the West of meddling in Russian politics. (More)