Azar was found guilty of repeatedly violating of the rules of picketing (Paragraph 8 of Article 20.2 of Russia's Code of Administrative Offences) – the maximum penalty for the offence is administrative arrest for up to 30 days or a fine of up to 300 thousand roubles ($4,200).
The journalist was detained on May 26 for picketing in support of jailed 'Police Ombudsman' founder Vladimir Vorontsov. Azar stood outside the Interior Ministry building in Moscow holding up two posters – "Free Vladimir Voronstov" and "Free Viktor Nemytov" – after which he was arrested by the police and taken to a temporary detention center. Activist Viktor Nemytov was arrested prior to Azar for an identical picket, and was handed down a similar 15-day sentence on May 27.
Three other activists were detained later that day for holding pickets in support of Vorontsov – 'Open Russia' coordinator Tatiana Usmanova, 'Avtozak Live' editor Maksim Kondratyev and municipal deputy Elena Filina. Police justified the arrests by referring to Russia's law on mass riots.
Vladimir Vorontsov, founder of 'Police Ombudsman', an online community dedicated to exposing issues in Russia's law enforcement agencies, was arrested by a Moscow court on May 8 on charges of extortion. He will remain in a pre-trial detention center until July 6. Vorontsov has denied any wrongdoing, and believes that the case is "revenge for his public activities in defending the labor rights of ordinary police officers."
Authorities opened a second case against Vorontsov on May 23, alleging that he had "proliferated pornographic images" along with associate Igor Khudyakov and other "unidentified persons." Khudyakov was arrested by Moscow's Tverskoy District Court on May 25 – he will remain in custody until July 22.
Ilya Azar, a well-known Russian journalist, is the special correspondent for newspaper Novaya Gazeta. He is also a municipal deputy for Moscow's Khamovniki District.