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Russian president supports amnesty draft prepared by human rights activists

December 05, 2013, 11:06 UTC+3 World Service) ¶ 5/12 Tass ¶ MOSCOW

The president said, however, that the document should be refined

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MOSCOW, December 05. /ITAR-TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday expressed his support for granting amnesty to thousands of Russian prisoners, proposed by the Russian Presidential Human Rights Council (HRC) in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Russian Constitution. The president said, however, that the document should be refined. Currently, there is discussion in the media whether prisoners convicted in high-profile cases, such as former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, punk protesters Pussy Riot and those accused of staging riots at a protest rally in May 2012 in the so-called Bolotnaya Square case, might be eligible.

The Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper publishes an article entitled “Khodorkovsky and Pussy Riot may welcome the New Year out of prison.”

The newspaper says that under the wide amnesty draft, prepared by the HRC for the 20th anniversary of the Russian Constitution, more than 100,000 prisoners might be released.

“We are going to improve this document together with deputies of the State Duma,” the daily quotes Putin as saying. “This amnesty can apply only to the persons who indeed did not commit grave crimes and violent crimes against public officers, first of all, of course, representatives of law enforcement agencies.”

This means that those accused within the Bolotnaya Square case will not be amnestied, the newspaper believes.

“After the amnesty declaration each specific case will be considered individually,” the newspaper continues. “Head of the Russian Presidential Human Rights Council Mikhail Fedotov specified that both Mikhail Khodorkovsky and members of the Pussy Riot girls’ punk band may be among those amnestied. The amnesty will also apply to a number of migrants for whom the entry to Russia had been banned.”

Putin would propose a version of the amnesty for 30,000-40,000 prisoners, the Vedomosti newspaper writes. “It will be extended to pregnant women, people with severe disabilities, men over 60 and women over 50, minors under the condition that the offence was committed for the first time and the sentence is less than five years (inclusive),” the newspaper quotes HRC member Igor Borisov.

The amnesty granting conditions proposed by Putin (grave crimes, according to the Russian Criminal Code are offences punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment) seriously narrow the framework of the concept, which the HRC has drafted under the instruction of the president, Vedomosti writes. Under the president’s proposals, Maria Baronova, a woman accused in the Bolotnaya case, may be the only one of all those charged whose article (calls to mass riots) falls under the amnesty terms announced by Putin, lawyer Dmitry Agranovsky says.

Baronova will be not the only amnestied person of those accused in the Bolotnaya case, a HRC source says: it is planned to release all those who have been convicted and accused of involvement in mass riots — it’s another eight people.

“Amnesty may not be granted, according to the president’s terms, to many other persons convicted in high-profile cases that could be amnestied if the originally proposed HRC versions was adopted: for example the former owners of Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev,” the newspaper writes.

Amnesty does not apply to specific cases, and it will be clear who will be released only after the State Duma lower house of parliament finalizes the draft amnesty, Russian Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin said. The mothers of underage children will also be amnestied, he believes. Vedomosti recalls that Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova — members of the Pussy Riot band, convicted of hooliganism, have minor children.

Vladimir Lukin told the Izvestia daily said that he had not discussed with Putin specific high-profile cases and that or other personalities.

“It would be hasty and inappropriate to speak about those who might be released under the amnesty. The clear criteria are yet to be defined. They will be determined through dialogue,” the newspaper quotes Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov as saying.

Itar-Tass is not responsible for the material quoted in these press reviews

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