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Presidential amnesty to set some 25,000 prisoners free in Russia

MOSCOW, December 09, 21:58 /ITAR-TASS/. The amnesty to be declared by President Vladimir Putin in connection with the 20th anniversary of the Russian Constitution will set some 25,000 prisoners free, Dmitry Vyatkin, deputy chairman of the Duma Committee on Civil, Criminal, Arbitration and Procedural Legislation, said on Monday, December 10,

According to the draft amnesty law submitted to the State Duma, lower house of parliament, earlier in the day, 1,300 persons who are already serving their terms in prisons, about 17,000 persons whose penalties do not require imprisonment, and 6,000 persons under prosecution will be amnestied.

“The State Duma supported the president who had heard the call for amnesty made by public organisations, the Human Rights Council and the ombudsman,” Vyatkin said.

The amnesty will apply to the most socially vulnerable categories of convicts, suspects and defendants, and persons awarded for meritorious service to the country. These include persons who committed crimes when they were minors, women who have under-aged children, pregnant women, women older than 55 years of age and men older than 60 years of age, people with disabilities, persons who participated in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant cleanup operation, military servicemen, law enforcers, penitentiary system officials, and other persons who participated in combat operations to protect the country.

The amnesty will apply only persons who were sentenced to imprisonment for no more than five years and who did not serve prison terms in correctional institutions before. An exception will be made for minors who committed offences before the age 16 or who have served at least half of their terms.

The amnesty will not apply to persons who committed crimes that posed a great social danger or involved violence or threat of violence, as well as to persons who were pardoned or amnestied before, to persons who committed deliberate crimes in prison, and to prison inmates who grossly violate the terms of imprisonment.

The amnesty will apply not only to persons who have been sentenced to imprisonment, but also to persons who have been given penalties that do not require imprisonment or who received suspended sentences, and persons on parole.

Criminal proceedings against persons who are suspects or defendants under prosecution will be terminated.

At a meeting with Council Chairman Mikhail Fedotov and Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin on December 4, Putin agreed with the proposed terms of amnesty.

“Amnesty may be applied only to those persons who did not commit grave crimes or crimes connected with violent actions against representatives of the authorities, primarily law enforcement agencies,” the president said.

Putin instructed Fedotov and Lukin to “finalise the [amnesty] document together with State Duma deputies.”

“The decision should be balanced but definitely aimed at humanising law enforcement practices,” the head of state added.

“During your meeting with the Council on September 4, we raised the matter of declaring an amnesty to mark the 20th anniversary of Russia’s Constitution. You said then that this is something we need to think about, instructed the Council to draft proposals and gave us a deadline of October 15. On October 11, we discussed the draft proposals at a Council meeting. The proposals were approved by the majority of the Council’s members and were sent to the Presidential Executive Office,” Fedorov said.

“There are various points of view and differences in opinion regarding the details. But it is important that there is an understanding that everyone who has taken part in the discussions agrees in principle with the idea that the Constitution’s 20th anniversary is a fitting occasion to sum up some results and draw a line,” he said.

Fedotov believes that the amnesty may apply to as many as 100,000 persons.

At the same time, it is too early to name concrete persons who may be set free under an amnesty proposed in connection with the 20th anniversary of the Russian Constitution, the Kremlin said.

“It would be premature, imprudently and wrong,” presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

“There is obviously the general consensus that the amnesty may apply to those who did not commit violent crimes,” Peskov said. At the same time, he said: “It would be premature to say that the amnesty will apply to such and such concrete persons.”

“It would be imprudently and wrong to say so now. The document will be finalised and clear criteria will be determined. As the president has said, they will be determined through dialogue between the presidential administration and parliament and between experts and members of civil society,” the spokesperson said.

The Duma will decide when to debate the draft amnesty law at the nearest meeting of its Council on Thursday, December 12.

Duma Deputy Speaker Vladimir Vasilyev of the ruling United Russia party believes that not only the parliamentary majority but also other factions will support the draft amnesty law.

The Duma Committee on Civil, Criminal, Arbitration and Procedural Legislation will start working on the draft on Tuesday, December 10.

“Ahead of the 20th anniversary of parliament, MPs from all factions received numerous appeals for amnesty from the families of the persons who are serving prisons terms or are under investigation. So I think that not only our faction but also all others will support the draft law. I hope it will be adopted shortly,” Vasilyev said.

He noted that amnesty was the exclusive prerogative of parliament. Amnesty has been declared 17 times in Russia since 1994. Under the latest one, declared in July 2013, almost 1,500 entrepreneurs sentenced for economic offences were set free. “The property returned and damages paid to the federal budget amounted to about one billion roubles,” Vasilyev said.

“On December 12, we will be celebrating an important jubilee - the 20th anniversary of Russian Constitution and parliament. This jubilee is a crucial moment in the life of Russia, and people are waiting for amnesty as a sign of mercy and humanism on the part of the state,” the MP said.

“The amnesty process will continue for six months after declaration by the State Duma,” Vasilyev said.