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Gusinsky freed to await hearing

Gusinsky is to be freed pending decision  

MADRID, Spain -- Russian media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky has been released from jail while he awaits a ruling on an extradition request.

Three Spanish High Court judges said certain restrictions would be imposed on Gusinsky's movements until they decide whether to return him to his homeland.

Gusinsky headed for his luxury villa in Sotogrande, southern Spain after $5.5 million bail had been paid.

The 2-1 vote is a reversal of a decision made last Thursday by the same court, which had said 48-year-old Gusinksy would remain in prison.

A decision on his extradition is due "soon."

The media baron, who owns Russia's only independent TV network NTV, was arrested in Spain last December on an international warrant sought by Russian authorities who accused him of fraud.

He has denied the charges, saying they were politically motivated, and was released soon after his arrest on $5.5 million bail.

He remained under house arrest at his villa until he was transferred to a jail in Madrid prior to the March 15 court appearance.

The court's latest order, on Monday, does not require the police guard at his home, Gusinsky's lawyer Domingo Plazas told CNN

Instead, the court requires only that Gusinsky appear daily at a local police station and not leave the province of Cadiz where his home is located.

Gusinsky drove out of a Madrid jail around 6 p.m. local time on Monday and was in good spirits, Plazas said, "with the aim of continuing to fight and make his media businesses work."

Russian prosecutors have asked Spain to send Gusinsky home to face fraud charges stemming from a business loan involving his media company, Media Most.

Gusinsky told the court on March 15 that the charges were "false and absurd" and that they were politically motivated because his company has criticised the Russian Government.

Plazas said he thinks that the court has decided to vote 2-1 against extradition, but that the ruling would not be binding until the court issues its written version, in the coming days.

The court, in its one-page ruling on Monday to grant provisional liberty to Gusinsky, said, "In light of the results of the deliberations on the extradition of Vladimir Gusinsky, it is proper to change the personal situation of the defendant, granting his immediate freedom."

The alleged fraud involved a loan to Gusinsky's company from Gazprom, the Russian natural gas monopoly.

Russian prosecutors say Gusinsky overstated the assets of Media-Most to win $300 million in loan guarantees in 1996 from the state-owned natural gas monopoly Gazprom.

He insists that the loan has been fully repaid.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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March 23, 2001
Gusinsky to remain in Spanish jail
March 16, 2001
Raids on Gusinsky media empire
February 9, 2001
TV boss to fight extradition to Russia
January 31, 2001
Russian TV ordered to retract report
January 30, 2001
Confusion in Russia over NTV shares
January 25, 2001

Russian Government

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