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New amnesty planned in Russia

September 27, 2013, 11:03 UTC+3
Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Pussy Riot group activists have more chances, as they are not charged of violence
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President Vladimir Putin has asked the Council on Human Rights to present proposals by October 15 to declare amnesty to mark the 20th Constitution anniversary. Most likely, it will concern much more prisoners than economic amnesty. Experts suppose it may apply to the Bolotnaya Square disorders case defendants.

Council member Andrei Babushkin, cited by the Kommersant, believes if it is declared it should be much larger-scale amnesty, than the latest for economic crimes. According to him, 30,000-40,000 people, who committed crimes without violence, should be released, and sentences for other 50,000 should be reduced.

"We do not need such a number of prisoners, and people who are granted amnesty and released feel some gratitude for the state and commit fewer crimes than those released after serving the sentence to the end," Babushkin explained. According to him, reversal should be stipulated -- the decision to grant amnesty may be reversed for some prisoners if they "do not behave properly".

The human rights activist believes defendants and convicts in the Bolotnaya Square and YUKOS cases should be released before the Sochi Olympic Games. Vladimir Putin understands this. Otherwise, he had not addressed the council, Babushkin noted.

However, retired Constitutional Court judge and member of the council Tamara Morshchakova noted that the main idea of amnesty was to release people who had committed non-violent crimes. If the Bolotnaya case defendants will be convicted of participation in mass disorders, they should not hope, whatever complaints are brought about the investigation and the court.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Pussy Riot group activists have more chances. They are not charged with violence. According to Morshchakova, the number of amnesty-granted persons depends on a legislator who can independently narrow the space for amnesty.

Council member Maria Kannabikh, on the contrary, thinks it should be large-scale amnesty. In her words, there are not many Criminal Code articles on minor crimes, for example petty thefts.

The head of the Communist Party's legal service, Vadim Solovyov, said in his comments to the Kommersant that under the Constitution, amnesty declaring is the State Duma's prerogative, but Vladimir Putin nevertheless has addressed his council. According to Solovyov, it is because amnesty may release Bolotnaya case defendants.

"In the situation, the authorities want to demonstrate to the world community that the initiative comes from the president and that they are ready for a dialogue with the society," he said. "But for goodness' sake, the main thing is that the case must be ended."

The Nezavisimaya Gazeta in its editorial comment writes about possible release of Bolotnaya case defendants. For a person to be granted amnesty, the legal proceedings must be completed and a sentence must be pronounced. If it is a guilty verdict, defendants should appeal for a pardon, pleading guilty, the newspaper notes.

Legally, the president may grant a pardon without the convict's repentance.

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