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Human rights defenders call for expanding amnesty

Rights activists believe amnesty should include former top managers of the Yukos oil company Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev as well as Bolotnaya Square activists

MOSCOW, December 12. /ITAR-TASS/. A petition with the demand to grant amnesty to all political prisoners, including the defendants in the Bolotnaya Square case of mass riots and former top managers of the Yukos oil company Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, was submitted to Russia’s State Duma lower house of parliament on Wednesday. The petition was signed by more than 20,000 people. All the signatures were witnessed by renowned human rights activist Lyudmila Alekseyeva.

Three carton boxes with files, containing counted and sewed in sheets, were brought to the Duma building and put in its lobby by party activists, the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper writes. The load was accompanied by Lyudmila Alekseyeva, human rights activist Valery Borshchev and co-chairman of the RPR-PARNAS (Republican Party of Russia - People’s Freedom Party) Vladimir Ryzhkov. The latter said how the signatures had been collected over several weeks: “in the rain and snow,” near metro stations, in the streets. “It’s the real signatures, and not those collected on the Internet, you can call all these people to check,” he said.

The Novye Izvestia newspaper recalls that the RF president on December 9 submitted to the State Duma a draft decree on amnesty, timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Russian Constitution. The document was drafted based on proposals of the RF Presidential Human Rights Council (HRC), however, it turned out to be considerably curtailed, compared to the version proposed by human rights activists. In particular, most economic crimes, including the articles of the Penal Code under which opposition member Aleksei Navalny, former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his partner Platon Lebedev were convicted, have “dropped out” of the amnesty proposal. Not only opposition members, but also some HRC representatives have expressed dissatisfaction with such correction of the initial amnesty draft.

The authors of the initial amnesty draft - members of the Human Rights Council - told a news conference on Wednesday that the document submitted to the State Duma had nothing to do with the version they had worked out, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily emphasises. The HRC members, as well as Russian Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin, however, so far are ready to continue the work with the lawmakers in the hope to make adjustments to the bill. Human rights defenders have already calculated: under the current amnesty decree a mere 1,335 people (less than one percent of prisoners) might be released, which would not make it possible to ease tension in the society, which they had hoped for. The newspaper recalls that the initial figures of the potentially amnestied persons were “somewhere around 25,000 prisoners.”

As for the high-profile case of hooliganism of the Greenpeace activists who attempted to put a protest banner on the Prirazlomnaya offshore oil platform in the Arctic, to all appearances, they will not be amnestied, the State Duma members specified once again on Wednesday. Because the bill contains a special reservation that says that the sentence must first take legal effect before amnesty could be granted.

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