Russian woman jailed for social media post ponders activism

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YEKATERINBURG, Russia (AP) — A cleaning lady who was released from prison after a Russian court overturned her conviction for disseminating child pornography in a social media post said Friday she wants to become a human rights activist.

Yevgenia Chudnovets, who worked in a kindergarten in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, was sentenced to six months in prison in November for including a three-second video of child abuse in a post calling for the perpetrators to be punished. Individuals shown in the footage from a summer camp were convicted and sent to prison.

On Monday, the district court in the Kurgan region threw out Chudnovets' conviction and ordered her released from the prison where she had been for four months. The verdict followed President Vladimir Putin's promise to look into the case, in response to a question at a news conference in December.

Chudnovets said she met other wrongly convicted inmates and was inspired to consider becoming an activist. She also has said she would sue the state for damages.

"I have seen the suffering of the innocent who were in prison: people who were there by mistake or by collusion like me," she told The Associated Press by phone. "We need to deal with it."

The 33-year-old woman left prison the day she was ordered released, but had not spoken at length of her experience until now.

"When I learned that I would be released and that I was fully acquitted, I was so ecstatic, I was jumping and screaming in my cell," she said.

Once released, however, she felt "lost and unable to speak." She said she has seen a therapist to help her feel like herself again.

Chudnovets' conviction came amid a wave of criminal cases for various social media posts that began last year in Russia. Rights activists and lawyers say the drop in violent hate crimes sent police and investigators scrambling to prosecute nonviolent offenders to show a solid record of tackling extremism.

Chudnovets, the mother of a 3-year-old boy, is among three people who faced charges and were released in recent weeks following increased pressure on the opposition and civil activists. Last week, Russia's top investigative agency searched the apartment of a prominent opposition journalist and prisoner-rights activist.

Public outcry online and in the media may have prompted the court to intervene in her case, Chudnovets said.

"Maybe someone in the court system started to realize that something had to be done," she added.

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