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Chessmaster Gary Kasparov's Arrest During Pussy Riot Trial

Perhaps the most surprising thing to emerge out of the media saturated Pussy Riot trials other than the trial itself, was the attendance and subsequent arrest of the former Chessmaster of Caucasian descent, Gary Kasparov, at the reading of the verdict on August 17, which saw the three women accused of illegally performing  a “punk prayer” in a church receive a two year prison term.

Kasparov, born in Baku, Azerbaijan, to an Armenian mother and Jewish father, adapted his last name from his mother's Armenian maiden name, Gasparyan, after the death of his father. Kasparov and his family escaped the pogrom of Armenians in Baku  during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and settled in Moscow. He went on to become the youngest World Chess Champion and is considered to be the greatest chess player of all time.

The news of his arrest was posted by admins on Kasparov's Facebook page, which saw a sharp increase in activity after news spread of the events.

[Editors] Garry Kasparov has just been arrested outside the Moscow courthouse where the Pussy Riot trial is taking place. He was not there to protest, simply to attend, and the police cornered him and dragged him into the police van. This photo shows the police assaulting him inside the van. We hope he is all right and we will provide updates when we have them.

The first photo to come out of the arrest, which the page posted was taken by  Moscow-based journalist Olaf Koens, who tweeted it with a caption:

@obk: This is the police wrestling with Garry Kasparov inside the paddy van. Are they beating him?

Garry Kasparov after he was detained by police outside the Pussy Riot verdict hearing/Photo by Olaf Koens via Twitter

Those close to him were quick to dispel rumor that he had been protesting.

Mig Greengard, Kasparov's “aide-de-camp,” was the first to clarify:

@chessninja: At least one report that Garry Kasparov has been arrested at the Pussy Riot courthouse. He wasn't protesting, just trying to get in!

The tweet was followed by a post on chessmaster's Facebook page:

 [Editors] We just spoke to Garry on the phone. He is at the police station. He was beaten but says he is okay. He isn't sure what will happen next. It seems the police are waiting for orders from above. He says he was standing calmly speaking with journalists when police pushed through and grabbed him. Thanks to everyone for the support.

 

Many took to Twitter to praise Kasparov, a political activist and outspoken Putin critic  who took part in setting up The Other Russia, an anti-Kremlin coalition.

@johnhm5235: Garry Kasparov, former world chess champion & current Russian democracy advocate, on CNBC. He is a hero to people who love freedom.

@RSiljanoski: Just imagine if Garry Kasparov was president of Russia what a smart country Russia would be! #FreePussyRiot girls!

Kasparov was accused of biting an officer's hand during the scuffle and was yelling slogans such as “Russia Without Putin,” as The Other Russia suggests in a post on alleged falsified reports in Kasparov's arrest. Video taken during the scuffle, in which biting or yelling cannot be seen or heard, seem to tell a different story.

ChessBase.com, in a recent blog post, also refutes the allegations:

Our contacts tell us that he was outside the court house speaking to Radio Svoboda journalists when police pushed through to seize him. The 49-year-old Kasparov insisted he was not protesting, but the police grabbed him and violently dragged him into a police van, where he was further physically assaulted by the police, as documented by a photographer.

Earlier this week, Kasparov told fans on Facebook that he had gone to the Investigative Committee of Russia to submit complaints on his “illegal arrest, assault and libel” and also saw the officer he is accused of having bitten:

Unfortunately I did not have the chance to give him a strong handshake, but his hands looked fine to me… A full updating coming here tonight, with more photos and videos coming out. I am fighting bites with bytes!

Follow BBC's Moscow correspondent, Daniel Sandford, who is live tweeting from Kasparov's trial taking place today.

 

 

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