Russian court frees martial arts murder convict

27th November 2012, Comments 0 comments

A Russian court on Tuesday freed a martial arts champion after finding him guilty of involuntary manslaughter for killing a Moscow teenager last summer, in a case that was decried by many as unfair and roused nationalist protests.

Rasul Mirzayev, a 26-year-old athlete from Russia's Dagestan hit 19-year-old Ivan Agafonov in August 2011 after an argument outside a Moscow night club. Although Agafonov seemed only slightly injured at the time, he went into a coma and died within a few days.

Mirzayev was an undefeated Russian champion in mixed martial arts -- an often bloody mixture of wrestling and boxing hugely popular in Russia -- at the time of his arrest.

The long-running case was seen by Russia's nationalists as skewed by the investigation in favour of the Dagestani man after his charge was changed from murder to the lighter involuntary murder, with some experts arguing that Agafonov died because of hitting his head on the pavement.

In Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky court on Monday, judge Andrei Fedin found Mirzayev guilty and sentenced him to two years house arrest, but ordered him released after taking into account his year-long stay in jail pending the trial and his family.

"Shame!" some people in the audience yelled as the judge said Mirzayev was to be freed immediately. "The scum is being let go!" another person yelled, "The life of a Russian costs nothing here!"

Amid some commotion outside the courthouse, police detained nationalist leader Dmitry Dyomushkin, he said on Moscow Echo radio, calling the case "political".

Other more moderate commentators questioned why killing somebody qualifies as a lesser crime than dancing in a church, referring to the recent two-year prison sentence for female punk band Pussy Riot.

Russia's authorities have treaded carefully around nationalism-tinged issues ever since thousands of right-wing football fans staged a violent rally near the Kremlin in 2010 to protest the way police handled a Russian fan's death in a fight with some young men from the North Caucasus.

© 2012 AFP

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