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Parliament expels Putin opponent

MOSCOW — Russian parliament expelled an opponent of President Vladimir Putin today in a vote which he said intensified a Kremlin crackdown on dissent and likened to a Stalinist show trial.

A vote in the lower house, the State Duma, deprived opposition deputy Gennady Gudkov of his parliamentary immunity over allegations he denied of operating a business while in the assembly, a charge that carries a two-year jail sentence.

Opposition leaders said his expulsion, one day before a protest rally in Moscow, sent a clear signal that Putin was determined to smother dissent in his new-six year term.

“Everything happening here is a lawless show trial. It is a political vendetta and extra-judicial punishment,” Gudkov, 56, told the Duma before it voted 291-150 to oust him. Three deputies abstained.

“I received my mandate from the people, from hundreds of thousands of voters who voted for me, and only they can judge what kind of deputy I am,” he said.

The portly and mustachioed member of the Just Russia party, which has gone from being an ally of Putin’s United Russia to an opposition force, got up and walked out of the chamber after the vote, shaking his fist in defiance.

He shook hands with allies in the chamber and kissed one woman deputy as he made his way out.

Deputies are not allowed to run a business while holding a seat in the chamber. Gudkov said the charges against him were “a farce” and has circulated a list of pro-Putin members of the chamber he says are guilty of running businesses.

Opposition leaders have portrayed his treatment as part of a campaign to discredit them that also includes criminal charges that protest leader Alexei Navalny stole timber from a state firm, which could land him in prison for 10 years. (Reuters)

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