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#11 - JRL 7245
June 30, 2003
Maverick writer freed

After serving more than half of his 4-year sentence, the controversial writer and leader of the National-Bolshevik Party Eduard Limonov was released on Monday morning. Limonov was taken into custody in April 2001 on charges of illegally purchasing and possessing weapons, plotting terrorist attacks and the forced overthrow of the constitutional order. In April this year he was sentenced to 4 years in prison for the acquisition of weapons. The other charges were dropped.

On June 19 a court in the Russian town of Engels, Saratov Region, granted the writer an early release from prison for good behaviour. Limonov had already served over half of his 4-year sentence, mostly in pre-trial detention, and did not have any recorded violations in that time, the Saratov regional judicial department told reporters.

The court also took into account positive references and petitions for his release from State Duma members including Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Alexei Mitrofanov and Vasily Shandybin. Limonovs Moscow publishers also supported the parole plea.

Last week the prosecutors office of Engels challenged the court ruling, but then withdrew the appeal on the same day.

Upon leaving his prison cell on Monday morning, the writer headed to the banks of the Volga River to bathe, the acting chairman of NBP Anatoly Kishin told the press. According to Kishin, Limonov is to return to Moscow on Tuesday. ''Eduard Limonov made no special statements,'' Kishin said.

The Saratov Regional Court sentenced Eduard Savenko, better known under his writer's pseudonym Limonov, to 4 years in a common regime labour camp in April of this year. The leader of the National-Bolshevik Party was found guilty of illegally purchasing and storing weapons. All the other charges, including plotting terror attacks and the forced overthrow of the constitutional order, were later dropped. Limonov refuted all the charges brought against him and claims the trial was politically motivated.

Five more members of Limonov's party who were tried at the same time were sentenced to prison terms of between 2 years and 3 months to 3 years and 6 months. Limonov has been in custody since April 2001.

It took the judges two months to prepare a final verdict after the prosecutors and the defence addressed the court with their final statements in mid-February. Then, the state prosecutor Sergei Verbin asked the court to sentence Limonov to 14 years in prison. Upon hearing the prosecutor's request, the 60-year-old writer said he was ''ready to die in prison''.

The prosecutor claimed that Eduard Limonov and his right-hand man Sergei Aksyonov had been plotting a series of terror attacks and planned an armed invasion of northern Kazakhstan, where they tried to recruit volunteers to carry out a plan entitled ''A Second Russia''.

Furthermore, the prosecution insisted that both Aksyonov and Limonov were guilty of calls for the armed overthrow of the state regime. Both defendants were accused of publishing three NBP-Info leaflets, in which the party leaders allegedly called for the armed seizure of power, the forming of an armed group and the setting up of guerilla bases in Kazakhstan.

In his final address to the court, Limonov compared himself to Nikolai Chernyshevsky (a 19th century revolutionary, writer and philosopher) and called the proceedings against him politically motivated. ''We are no criminals, but honest Russian patriots.'' he concluded.

Limonov was arrested on April 7, 2001 in the South Siberian Republic of Altai and initially charged with the illegal acquisition of firearms. The operation to detain the radical writer was conducted by the Federal Security Service.

In an official statement released shortly afterwards the special services gave information about the detention of several members of the National Bolshevik Party a month earlier as they attempted to purchase firearms, ammunition and explosives. Criminal proceedings were instigated against the group and the investigators acquired evidence of Limonov's involvement in the deal. According to one of the detained NBP members, Limonov had personally ordered them to buy weapons.

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