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The BBC's Flora Botsford in Madrid
"It seems assurances that Mr Gusinsky will not flee Spain have been accepted"
 real 28k

Friday, 22 December, 2000, 23:30 GMT
Gusinsky freed on bail
Russian media tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky
Gusinsky says he is a victim of political persecution
Russian media tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky was released from a Spanish prison on Friday and placed under house arrest after his lawyers posted bail of one billion pesetas ($5.54m).

Mr Gusinsky, a prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was arrested 10 days ago at his villa in the southern coastal town of San Roque, by police acting on an Interpol warrant.

This is good news - Mr Gusinsky will be able to spend Christmas and New Year in freedom

Media Most spokesman
The Russian authorities want to question him about alleged fraud, estimated at $250m, involving his media empire, Media Most.

Mr Gusinsky says the fraud allegations are false and politically motivated, and that he will contest the extradition moves.

A top Spanish judge had earlier ruled that Mr Gusinsky could have a conditional release, while his possible extradition to Russia was studied.

Mr Gusinsky was arrested in the resort of Sotogrande
Lawyers went to Soto del Real jail on Madrid's outskirts to sign papers for Mr Gusinsky's release.

High Court Judge Baltasar Garzon set strict conditions for Mr Gusinsky's house arrest, saying police must be posted both outside and inside the house.

Mr Gusinsky must also ask the judge and police for permission if he wants to leave the house, and be accompanied by police if he is allowed out. Also, any vehicle entering or leaving the premises must be searched by police.

Judge Garzon said he himself will arrange the surveillance with police.

State Attorney Enrique Molina has lodged an appeal of the bail and house arrest decision but this is not expected to halt proceedings.

Mr Gusinsky, 48, was refused bail by a lower court earlier this week.

In requesting bail, Mr Gusinsky's lawyers argued that he did not present a risk of fleeing the country because his wife and children live in the Spanish villa.

Judge Garzon noted in the bail order that Mr Gusinsky 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.

Criticism of Kremlin

Media Most has remained staunchly critical of the Putin government, especially over the war in Chechnya.

Mr Gusinsky's Moscow-based television channel, NTV, has brought home to many Russians a vision of the Chechen conflict which is in marked contrast to the one given by the official media.

The BBC's Flora Botsford in Madrid says the decision to release Mr Gusinsky is by no means the end of the case, which lawyers warn could take many months to complete.

Judge Baltasar Garzon is best known for his role in another lengthy legal process - his unsuccessful attempt to bring the former Chilean dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, to trial in Spain.

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See also:

12 Dec 00 | Europe
Russian media baron held in Spain
13 Nov 00 | Europe
Russian media boss charged
16 Jun 00 | Europe
Gusinsky: Thorn in Putin's side
28 Mar 00 | Business
Russia's new oligarchs
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