Court backs gay parade against Moscow mayor: report

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A Moscow court backed opposition and gay activists' right to rally in unprecedented rulings, newspapers reported Friday, interpreting them as further evidence of the mayor's political isolation.

Until now the courts had rejected numerous cases against the city authorities, Russian newspapers noted.

They have regularly banned activists' attempts to hold a gay parade and also cracked down on the so-called anti-Kremlin Day of Anger marches in the city centre.

But the Moscow City Court first on Thursday overruled a district court ruling which backed the city's decision to deny permits to hold the Day of Anger opposition protest in March.

Then in a second ruling, it said Moscow officials had no grounds to ban a gay parade in May.

Yet since 2006, the same court had rejected over 200 cases by the opposition against the city in hearings that had lasted, on average, no longer than three to five minutes, according to the Vedomosti daily.

Russian rights activists hailed the surprise victories over Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov.

"The completely unexpected decision by the Moscow City Court has created a vital precedent that all of us can only celebrate," said prominent rights activist Lev Ponomaryov.

Ponomaryov was jailed briefly for disobeying police at a banned opposition protest last month.

"This verdict is either a signal that Luzkhov has lost total control over the court system or that the courts have finally decided to follow the letter and spirit of the law," he told the Novye Izvestia daily.

Russian newspapers saw the rulings as the latest sign of the Kremlin increasing impatience with the mayor.

Luzhkov, who has run the city of 12 million for the past 18 years, appears to have fallen out of favour with the Kremlin and has become the target of all-out media criticism against him and his billionaire wife.

© 2010 AFP

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