|December 18, 2013|
Russian Amnesty Includes Greenpeace as Well as Pussy Riot
|Russian lawmakers approved an amnesty today that includes the 30 Greenpeace crew facing hooliganism charges for an Arctic drilling protest. |
The State Duma, or lower house of parliament, adopted changes to the bill to cover those facing trial who haven't yet been convicted, the environmental organization said in an e-mailed statement. The law was passed unanimously in its final version today, according to state news service RIA Novosti.
The amnesty helps mark the 20th anniversary of Russia's constitution, which was on Dec. 12, and comes as the country prepares to stage the Winter Olympics in Sochi on Feb. 7-23. It will apply to 20,000 to 22,000 people, according to human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin.
Two members of the all-female punk band Pussy Riot imprisoned for hooliganism for a protest against President Vladimir Putin will be offered freedom under the amnesty, according to their lawyer.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the jailed former billionaire owner of Yukos Oil Co., wasn't included even after Putin's human rights adviser suggested he may be freed.
Khodorkovsky, 50, who was once Russia's richest man, is due to be freed from prison in August after serving almost 11 years for tax evasion, money laundering and oil embezzlement. He maintains his innocence, saying the cases were retribution for his opposition to Putin, a claim the Kremlin denies.
The amnesty targets prisoner categories such as pregnant women or young mothers, invalids, men over 60 or convicts aged 16-18 serving up to five years, according to Lukin.
Greenpeace mounted a worldwide campaign to press Russia to drop the charges against its activists. The imprisonment of the Pussy Riot members also drew global condemnation, with support from pop stars such as Madonna and Paul McCartney.
The 28 Greenpeace activists and two journalists from 18 countries, who face as long as seven years in prison for the protest targeting OAO Gazprom (GAZP)'s Arctic offshore oil platform, were set free on bail last month by courts in St. Petersburg.
The campaign to free the Greenpeace group included 860 protests in 150 cities in 46 countries, while more than 2.6 million people wrote to Russian embassies, according to the environmental organization.
Russia's top court last week ordered a review of a two-year prison sentence for Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, ruling they should have been entitled to defer their sentences because of their young children. The Moscow City Court will hear the case Jan. 24, according to legal information portal Rapsi, run by RIA Novosti and Russia's top courts.
Five Pussy Riot performers wearing colorful balaclavas sang a "punk prayer" in Moscow's main Orthodox cathedral in February 2012, calling on the Virgin Mary to "expel" Putin. A Moscow court jailed Tolokonnikova, Alekhina and Ekaterina Samutsevich for inciting religious hatred and hooliganism in August 2012. Samutsevich was released on a suspended sentence, while the other two weren't identified and remain at large.