İrem UZUN –TDO- Thousands gathered in Moscow on Sunday for a demonstration demanding the release of opposition protesters prosecuted in recent months. Police estimated a turnout of 20,000 at the Sakharov Avenue in central Moscow about half an hour after the start of the protest.
The protesters were arrested at rallies that flared in July when opposition politicians were barred from a local election. Allegations of police brutality and what many Muscovites saw as harsh jail sentences have sparked an unusual public outcry. Several people have been sentenced to up to four years in jail, and others are being prosecuted for crimes such as violence against police officers. Demonstrators flew banners and held posters showing the faces of some of the jailed protesters, while chanting: "Let them go!" and “Freedom for political prisoners”.
The opposition had hoped for as big a turnout as possible, arguing that authorities would be compelled to release jailed protesters if they felt holding them could dent their ratings further. The demonstration was authorized by the Moscow mayor’s office, unlike several rallies in recent months where police briefly detained more than 2,000 people.