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Amnesty International Welcomes Release of Human Rights Defender Aleksei Sokolov

WASHINGTON - Today, a court in Krasnoyarsk decided to release Aleksei Sokolov on parole. He was arrested in May 2009 and sentenced for theft and robbery a year later, on charges that many believed to have been fabricated in response to his human rights work in defense of prisoners' rights. He was allowed to leave the prison colony shortly after the court hearing and is now traveling back home to his family in Yekaterinburg.

"Amnesty International welcomes the release of Aleksei Sokolov, the founder and chairman of Legal Basis, an organization dedicated to defending the rights of prisoners in the Russian Federation," said Joshua Rubenstein, northeast regional director for Amnesty International. "Sokolov was facing three more years of imprisonment when he gained his release."

Aleksei Sokolov became prominent after he publicized and distributed a film about torture and other ill-treatment at IK-2, a temporary holding center in Yekaterinburg. The film received wide coverage, both in Russia and internationally, and led to the closure of the center.

The work of Legal Basis brought about several investigations into police and prison colony staff, accused of crimes including the use of torture to force suspects to "confess."

Amnesty International believes that the criminal charges that formed the basis of Sokolov's conviction were based on fabricated evidence. Sokolov has had two previous parole applications turned down on the flimsiest of pretexts.

When Amnesty International spoke to Aleksei Sokolov this morning, he said he was just relieved to be able to go back to his wife and children. He thanked Amnesty International and its members as well as the many other human rights organizations that have supported him over the last two years.

In May 2009 Amnesty International issued an urgent action appeal urging authorities to release Sokolov immediately unless he was promptly charged with a recognizable criminal offense and given a prompt and fair trial. An Amnesty International group in Maine has also taken on Sokolov's case, writing letters seeking his release.


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