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Russia amnesty could free Pussy Riot, benefit Greenpeace activists

Source: Reuters - Tue, 10 Dec 2013 12:28 PM
Author: Reuters
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* Pussy Riot members could be freed under amnesty

* Greenpeace activists may escape jail, experts say

MOSCOW, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Two members of punk protest band Pussy Riot could be freed from prison and 30 people arrested in a Greenpeace protest could avoid jail under an amnesty proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, lawyers said on Tuesday.

Putin plans the amnesty this month to mark the anniversary of the adoption of Russia's post-Communist constitution in 1993.

According to a draft text on the lower house of parliament's website, people convicted of hooliganism will be released under the amnesty. This is the charge on which Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina are serving two-year jail terms for a protest against Putin in a cathedral.

"I very much hope so," Irina Khrunova, a lawyer for Tolokonnikova, said when asked whether she believed her client - due for release in March - would be free by Jan. 1. "If the prison authorities drag this out, we will take measures."

Tolokonnikova, 24, and Alyokhina, 25, also appear to be eligible for release as mothers of young children. Khrunova said both women would qualify if parliament, which is dominated by a party loyal to Putin, approves the draft amnesty.

Thirty people arrested after a Greenpeace protest at an offshore oil platform in the Arctic in September are also charged with hooliganism, punishable by up to seven years in prison. All 30 have been released on bail but still face trial.

Mikhail Fedotov, head of a Kremlin advisory council on human rights, said he thought those arrested in the Greenpeace protest would be eligible for amnesty. A lower house official who declined to be named also said he believed they would qualify.

Russia's record on human rights is in the spotlight as the country prepares to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi in February.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has indicated that former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky will not be freed under the amnesty. Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003 and later convicted of financial crimes. (Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; Writing by Steve Gutterman, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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