Rights activists petition State Duma, demand amnesty for ‘Bolotnaya prisoners’

posted 16 Dec 2013, 04:41 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 16 Dec 2013, 07:37 ]
12 December 2013

Source: HRO.org (info)
Human rights activists have submitted around 21,000 signatures to State Duma deputy Dmitry Gudkov in support of a large-scale amnesty, Grani.ru reports, citing RIA Novosti. Gudkov promised to immediately pass on the petition to the State Duma administrative department. The collection of signatures was organised by the May 6th Committee.

The petition arrived at the offices of the Duma in three boxes. “We collected signatures from citizens who think it is necessary to have a large-scale amnesty which includes all political prisoners, including those imprisoned in the Bolotnaya case,” Ludmila Alekseeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, told journalists. “We have 20,658 handwritten signatures here of people who are speaking out for a far-reaching amnesty – all collected in four weeks on the streets of Moscow in the rain and snow,” noted Vladimir Ryzhkov, a co-chair of RPR-Parnas.

The process of collecting the signatures has shown that the number of people concerned about the ‘Bolotnaya prisoners’ has significantly grown, said rights defender Valery Borshchev. “Though we were initially faced with some indifference among people, now we have actually seen a proactive approach to this issue. It appears that many of our fellow citizens are now following this case,” he said.

On Monday 9 December President Vladimir Putin introduced into the State Duma a draft decree on the amnesty. The administration of the Duma reported that an amnesty would be announced by the end of the year. The amnesty would have six months to be carried out from the date that it is signed into law.

If the bill becomes law, the criminal cases of around 20-22,000 people would be halted. This would include those ‘Bolotnaya prisoners’ who are not being charged under Article 318 of the Criminal Code (use of violence against a representative of the authorities) or Section 1 of Article 212 (organisation of mass riots), as well as the members of Pussy Riot and the defendants in the Arctic Sunrise trial.

Of almost 30 people involved in the Bolotnaya trial, the amnesty should apply to around eight, all of whom are defendants in the ‘trial of the twelve’: Vladimir Akimenkov, Maria Baronova, Nikolai Kavkazsky and Leonid Kovyazin; Dmitry Rukavishnikov, who is currently in pre-trial detention; and Anastasia Rybachenko who has fled the country as a result of political persecution; as well as Fedor Bakhov and Oleg Arkhipenkov, who were released due to lack of evidence. All of these have been charged under Article 212, Sections 2 or 3 (participation in riots or inciting riot). The other defendants would still be prosecuted.

The amnesty will not apply to those accused of economic crimes, as an economic amnesty was already announced in the summer. The sentences imposed on Aleksei Navalny, leader of the People’s Alliance, and on Mikhail Khordokovsky and Platon Lebedev, found guilty in the Yukos trials, will therefore remain in force.

On 20 November, human rights activists addressed President Vladimir Putin in an open letter, requesting that the ‘Bolotnaya prisoners’ be added to the list of those to whom the proposed amnesty would apply. Under the letter stood the signatures of members of the Presidential Human Rights Council and the independent commission for investigation into the events on Bolotnaya Square of 6 May, 2012.

“We cannot allow this number of innocent people to go down for years to come. We have not stopped hoping that the accused in these trials will be included in the amnesty,” said Lev Ponomarev, leader of the movement ‘For Human Rights’.

Translated by Helen Corbett