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Russian Mogul Gusinsky Released From Jail in Spain

From Reuters

Russian media magnate Vladimir A. Gusinsky was released from a Spanish jail Friday after his lawyers posted bail of $5.5 million in a case that has focused international attention on press freedom in Russia.

Gusinsky, wanted in Russia on fraud charges, will be confined to his luxury villa in southern Spain under police guard pending extradition proceedings, according to conditions set by a Spanish judge earlier Friday.

Gusinsky’s case has been closely watched by the U.S. State Department and international Jewish groups as a test of whether independent media will be tolerated by the government of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin.

“He’s doing much better now that he’s out of jail,” defense lawyer Domingo Plazas said as he and his client were taken from the Soto del Real prison just north of Madrid in a Civil Guard vehicle.

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Gusinsky, founder of Media-Most, Russia’s only nationwide independent media group, was arrested at his home in the southern Spanish town of San Roque in Cadiz province Dec. 12 by police acting on an international warrant requested by Russia.

The extradition battle could take a year or more.

The businessman, who also heads Russia’s Jewish Congress, won the latest legal battle on the first day of Hanukkah when Judge Baltasar Garzon ruled that he be freed on bail and other conditions.

Garzon, known internationally for his unsuccessful effort to prosecute former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in Spain, confiscated Gusinsky’s passport, banned him from leaving the country and told him that he could leave his beach resort home only with court permission and a police escort.

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Garzon noted in the bail order that Gusinsky, 48, had dual Russian and Israeli nationality.

“He easily has the potential to evade justice, due both to his economic and operational resources,” the document said.

The prosecutor in the case said he was appealing Garzon’s decision because of the risk that Gusinsky could flee.

A spokesman for Russian prosecutors in the case said: “I don’t think Mr. Gusinsky will take such a risky step. And if he does, he will be hunted by both sides--Russia and Spain.

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“We do not mind whether the conditions of Mr. Gusinsky’s detention are changed,” the spokesman, Leonid Troshin, told the Russian Interfax news agency. “The main thing is that he returns to face Russian justice.”

In Moscow, Dmitri Ostalsky, a spokesman for Media-Most, said the company was satisfied with the decision, but he reiterated its belief that the case was politically motivated.

Russian prosecutors have accused Gusinsky of concealing assets to avoid paying debts.

His lawyers have denied the charges, calling them a crude bid by the Kremlin to silence its critics.

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