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MMA world champ acquitted of 1st degree murder, released in court

Published time: November 27, 2012 10:59
Edited time: November 27, 2012 19:18
Athlete Rasul Mirzayev is at Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky Court on November, 27, 2012. (RIA Novosti / Andrey Stenin)

Athlete Rasul Mirzayev is at Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky Court on November, 27, 2012. (RIA Novosti / Andrey Stenin)

An MMA champion accused of killing a patron at a Moscow nightclub with one punch has been found guilty of reckless homicide and released in court, after already serving 15 months in a detention facility. The case has reverberated around Russia.

­Rasul Mirzaev has been found guilty of killing student Ivan Agafonov by recklessness at the entrance to Garage club on the evening of August 13, 2011.

The court has maintained that during the conflict Mirzaev, who has professional martial skills, made one effective punch to Agafonov’s face. The blow caused “traumatic swelling of soft tissues in the right cheek, not to be classified as harmful to health.” The court officially recognized that Agafonov died several days later in the hospital due to concussion caused by the base of his neck hitting the pavement immediately following the blow.

The tragic incident that happened in central Moscow attracted huge public interest and practically divided Russian society in two. One party stressed that the case has a pronounced nationalistic angle since Rasul Mirzaev  is a native of the Russian North Caucasus republic of Dagestan, while Ivan Agafonov (of allegedly Russian origin) was born in Moscow. The other side insisted the case is purely criminal and has nothing to do with nationalism.

While the accusations against Rasul Mirzaev were not drawn immediately, the sportsman turned himself over to police voluntarily.

Russian nationalists attempted to use the case to their advantage. Officials feared nationalist leaders could use the Mirzaev case as a pretext to trigger ethnic clashes, as happened in Manege Square in the very center of Moscow on December 11, 2010.

The Russian Parliament’s lower chamber called on the nation not to peddle the question of nationality in this arguable case.

Even as the judge was reading off the sentence, a group of six nationalists made a deliberate attempt to break into the court house, which was guarded by over 100 police officers. All of them were arrested, including known nationalist leader Dmitry Dyomushkin.

Police arrest Dmitry Demishkin, a leader of the Russkiye nationalist movement, outside Moscow′s Zamoskvoretsky Court on November, 27, 2012. (RIA Novosti / Iliya Pitalev)
Police arrest Dmitry Demishkin, a leader of the Russkiye nationalist movement, outside Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky Court on November, 27, 2012. (RIA Novosti / Iliya Pitalev)

On Tuesday the court changed Mirzaev’s punitive article from first degree murder to involuntary manslaughter. This article of Russian criminal code implies up to two years in prison for causing accidental death.

After the court announced its decision on changing the degree of guilt, relatives of Ivan Agafonov opted to leave the court in protest. Reportedly, Agafonov’s mother suffered heart problems.

Mirzaev’s lawyer Aleksey Grebensky told journalists earlier that due to the fact that the defendant never ever had any problems with the law, Mirzaev is not likely to get the maximum term of two years in prison.

The prosecutor also insisted that the court must take into account the 15 months that Rasul Mirzaev already spent in pre-trial detention center. Each day of such detention is usually calculated by Russian courts as two days in prison.

The lawyer of the relatives of Agafonov has announced the ruling will be challenged in the European Court.

­

The deadly conflict

The melee started with Agafonov trying to flirt with Mirzaev’s girlfriend in his presence at the entrance to nightclub.

Though the woman said she was not alone, the student kept provoking her, and subsequently the fighter. A practicing bodybuilder, Agafonov (height about 180cm; weight about 90kg), was 22 centimeters taller and about 25kg heavier than Mirzaev (height 168cm; weight 68 kg). However, the MMA champ finally delivered just one blow to the young man. So powerful was it that Agafonov landed a meter away and his head struck the pavement.

For four days doctors fought for his life, but Ivan Agafonov passed away without regaining consciousness.

­

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