Jailing of environmentalist not Games related: IOC

Sat Feb 15, 2014 6:48am EST
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By Karolos Grohmann

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - The jailing of a Russian environmentalist who had accused authorities of damaging the environment in the run-up to the Sochi Olympics is not related to the Games, the International Olympic Committee said on Saturday.

Yevgeny Vitishko, who has protested against harm done to the environment by Olympic construction work, lost an appeal against his three-year jail sentence on Wednesday on charges of damaging the property of the local Krasnodar region's governor.

"We have had confirmation from Sochi (Games organizers), who got the information for us from the relevant authorities, that this is not Games related," IOC spokesman Mark Adams told reporters.

"We understand that Mr. Vitishko was arrested after painting a house or vandalizing a house about three years ago, he was given a suspended sentence at the time for that.

"Subsequently my understanding is he broke that suspended sentence and was subsequently jailed. So our understanding is that it is not Olympic related," he said.

The court's decision put the spotlight on concerns about the independence of the judiciary under President Vladimir Putin, who has staked his personal and political prestige on the Games and denies interfering with court decisions.

"As you know, we have discussed relocation of people, workers' unpaid wages, Ashtyr village," said Adams, naming several cases where the IOC sought action from organizers.

"When we've raised those, we want action, we got action on those ones. On this particular one we do not think — we are assured — it is not Olympic related," he said.   Continued...

A workman walks on the cauldron at sunrise at the Olympic Park during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 15, 2014. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn